Most notable Transmedia projects in Hong Kong of 2012

We will soon release our second installment of the Asian Screen and provide new updates on trends and markets in Greater China and South-East Asia. Since the report will rather focus on industry insights and interconnected relationships we want to highlight specific projects mentioned within here in greater detail with direct links and videos. Hence, this post will be a small recap on what kind of transmedia projects came out during 2012 in HK.

However, this is HK in 2012 and transmedia still has not actually gotten off the ground yet. So we will use the definition of what is a transmedia project a bit broader than usual, otherwise there would not much to report at all. Also, this is by no means a complete list. A lot of local projects do not even appear on our radar as they fail to reach a significant audience to be regarded as relevant. However, should you think we missed something/someone please do let us know in the comments below.

Webseries

Galaman

This animation series is quite the exception in HK. It is one of the most notable, creative and well-maintained transmedia projects in town. Run by Minimind Studio, a young start-up that is currently part of the HK Design Centre incubation program, Galaman is a mix of superhero and game-style comic animations with a number of episodes online. Besides building a vast story universe with a number of characters, latest episodes divert from the main hero to entertaining side characters. Every episode holds underlying social and political criticism towards the HK society and sometimes reacts to recent trends as well.

Despite the webseries primarily running on YouTube, Minimind Studio managed to find syndication effects with Yahoo HK as well as a whole catalog of merchandizing articles for all its characters. Since the team is small, a new episode will be released every 2-3 months. While the story universe keeps evolving, Galaman built a solid audience base on Facebook.

We will discuss Galaman in further detail in our upcoming report as well as within an interview with the creator.

Page: http://minimindstudio.com/galaman/

blog: http://jacso.hk/johnee

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/galamanhk

Current 7 episodes of Galaman:

Cross-over projects:

Mr French Taste

A HK-France co-production of a comedy series that ran very successful on Koldcast.tv. With an international creators team Mr French Taste is an entertaining series with a broad audience appeal on a global scale. Even though the transmedia aspects of the production fell short on season 1, the series will hopefully embrace social media integrations and story expansions with interactive nature during their next season.

Koldcast: http://www.koldcast.tv/video/the_job_interview_ep_1

Page: http://www.misterfrenchtaste.com

Microfilm series

There are very few webseries produced in HK that fall under the traditional definition of a webseries. Microfilms are running very strong recently, short films with a branded entertainment character, sponsored by corporations or brands. Such microfilm campaigns often come in a bundle of 3-6 short films and hence have a webseries character. On top, such branded entertainment is mostly produced and directed by famous feature filmmakers. One of the more relevant contributors to these microfilm series in HK is Heiward Mak. In 2012 she came out with two series. One for MTR Malls, one for LG. Story structures and character development are mostly loose and the main focus of such series always lies on staged nostalgia and generic forced emotions. Such webseries usually come with a transmedia-like marketing campaign around them. MTR Malls Popcorn campaign for example created game apps, live events at the malls as well as social media channels for fans to engage.

MTR Malls Popcorn:

LG × 麥曦茵微電影::

Feature Films

Triad

Triad was the only local feature film to adopt a transmedia campaign for its theatre release. And yes, we are talking about using transmedia for marketing purposes only. The concept of generating a story on a sole transmedia level has yet to be understood and implemented by local producers and filmmakers.

We talked about the campaign of Triads before here (https://haexagon.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/haexagon-concepts-monthly-recap-october-2012/). Sadly, since this post there have been no significant developments. In fact the entire campaign stopped at the opening weekend and the film basically flopped at HK box offices

But how do Hollywood feature films translate their transmedia marketing campaigns to HK? Usually, local distributors do not bother to localize what the US studios provide. The big campaigns of Girl With A Dragon Tattoo or Prometheus always merge down to simple posters on public transport. In fact local distributors seem to struggle a lot with the use of technology. It took two years for them to put QR codes on film posters. Such codes would lead to a flash web site and rendered quickly inappropriate.

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Only a few weeks later no film poster in town would have any QR codes at all. Even the big players like Warner failed to set up a simple movie web page for their tent pole pictures. The Dark Knight Rises would show a blank page until the opening week.

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Official trailers sometimes get deleted from YouTube. In general a distributor’s YouTube channels can get quite confusing and messy. Obligatory are localized Facebook pages that just post the usual cross-promotion efforts. Main focus across the board still lies with TV adverts, huge banners on busses and marketing stunts with meet and greet s
essions inside shopping malls.

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Disney on the other hand knows how to play the global transmedia game. Almost all their campaigns of 2012 releases are highly engaging event periods, online and offline likewise. Notable is the two months run for Wreck It Ralph. Tying in the film IP and theme to affiliated promotion partners like Samsung made Disney not only translate the game/technology aspect into all-day life but also gave audience something to connect with since Samsung’s mobile devices became highly popular in HK during the past six months.

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Admittedly, it is fairly easy for Disney to appeal to a local audience and find connection points as they are used to localize all their IPs, primarily on the audio level, on a regular basis. Naturally, having local celebrities dubbing the animated characters creates a very own eco system of marketing/ads and cross-storytelling. Of course, such an eco system is complex and hard to create. Only a few big players like Disney actually have the needed muscle to pull it off. But then again, this is still gatekeeper thinking rooted in the old film industry middle-men-system and transmedia projects (not including the ones using it for marketing sake only) have a serious potential to cut costs while achieving the same results for/with the audience.

With a bit of hesitant caution one could count Iron Sky to such an underdog example. The film finally landed in HK and closed its one year global theater run here. But how do you make a place connect to a film’s topic that is culturally not even remotely relevant in this region. The answer lies in promotion stunts and turning Nazis into pop-culture icons. Premiere parties with guests dressed in SS uniforms, an Iron Sky helicopter during the biggest music festival in town or students greeting publicly “Sieg Heil” at a screening at the HK Design Institute, it all brought dubious Nazi-Schick in our lives, at least for a couple of weeks.

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The social media team rendered excellent work with bilingual content on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/IronSkyHK ) and Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/IronSkyHK ). The traditional press work was conducted on a regular mainstream film level. For some reason (presumably to be found within the film’s financial structure) the www.ironskythemovie.com webpage turned into the HK webpage and offers promotion tie-ins for dining. Not sure how that correlates with moon Nazis though.

Now it has to be mentioned the local distributor for Iron Sky is VII Pillars Entertainment, a company founded by former Hollywood studio executives.

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Despite all those efforts Iron Sky did not turn into a box office success. It seemed like the cultural gab between pretending to be a moon Nazi and watching a film about moon Nazis was still too great. Identification and fun alone do not sell tickets.

Documentaries/short films/indies

2012 was still no breakthrough year for indies and documentary filmmakers to adopt transmedia storytelling. While the indies rely on copying the big players by selling out to studios or brankrupting themselves by employing PR agency giants to make them look like a non-indie production, documentaries were caving in to even deeper underground status with primary focus on exiling themselves from the international scene together with their Mainland Chinese network.

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Short film projects with huge transmedia potential like the recently launched Zombie Guillotines (https://www.facebook.com/ZombieGuillotines) fail entirely in online-strategy. While the time of the web launch was chooses perfectly with the Chinese mainstream film Guillotines hitting cinemas end of December the project seems to stall before it even began. After an obligatory Yahoo syndication of the short film and a more less decent view count build up on YouTube, the project offers only little to maintain a sustainable audience base. The filmmakers will definitely look for a genre festival run and maybe a follow up video. Despite this being one of the few very creative short film concepts this year that does not go for the oversaturated love/family drama kitsch there is very little room given by the creators for designing something outstanding.

The remains of the day

What becomes evident in 2012, the major social media channels for any kind of film related production are still Yahoo, Facebook and YouTube. Significant for community maintenance, but not necessary building, are Sina Weibo and WeChat. Distributors still jeopardize their entire first week box office revenue on traditional ad spent for posters,
banners and TVCs, holding on to a system that is burdened by an army of middle-men which supposedly worked for the past 50 years.

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The audience more and more turns away from cinemas. Screens have become too small, prices too high, value too low. The potential of mobile story telling has yet to be discovered. HK in 2012 was still a place where the media world was proclaimed to be flat and those who said that transmedia can make it round were burned for witchcraft. So we move on into 2013 in the hope the inquisition might cut us some slack for a proof of concept.

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Hong Kong’s IMAX solitude [part 2]

After watching THE DARK KNIGHT RISES two times, both on IMAX, a couple of new points arose and some local observations on the state of IMAX in Hong Kong have to be added to my previous post.

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Why do we fall?

First I saw Batman at the brand new  IMAX @ Airport . While being caved in to tight seats and little leg room the film unfolded in its digital IMAX 2K glory. I will not go into detail about the film itself and possible interpretations to the story, there are plenty of reviews and blogs out there feasting in those issues already. I’m rather concerned about what Warner HK and UA Cinemas present the local audience  and to give you the skinny right away: It’s a disaster!

As I outlined in the previous post, all HK IMAX screens run on digital 2K and use exclusively DMR versions of selected films. Now, I have already seen severe and horrible DMR blow-ups from 35mm on HK IMAX screens. PRINCE OF PERSIA and PIRATES 4 were the worst to date. DARK KNIGHT RISES however, is supposed to be a real IMAX produced film with its 72mins of actual IMAX footage. While those supersized scenes and sequences are almost in presentable image quality the 35mm parts simply fall into the shadows of blurry out-of-focus-ness.  Even though the difference in image size between both formats is hardly visible, due to the severely cropped digital IMAX aspect ratio as shown below, you can always tell when an IMAX scenes is up. It’s like putting on your glasses and the world around you sharpens up.

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Hold your joy! The IMAX scenes present a tremendous downside when it comes to camera movements. Welcome our new digital friend, the jittering. Most apparent in the wide aerial shots of Gotham’s skyline the entire image starts to deconstruct. One shot, when fighter jets fly across the city the IMAX images vanishes into a mash of colors and abstract forms. Buildings? What buildings? It’s all just digital information displaced. Digital jittering usually appears when shots have too much information to be rendered for the compression codec. Details get either lost or aliased. The result is a jumping image content instead of smooth camera tracks.

But why do we have to deal with such technical issues? Isn’t IMAX supposed to be the most advanced projection system in the world? Don’t we are willing to pay a huge ticket premium to be served with top-notch quality content? So why do I pay more than double a ticket price for Batman when the DVD will be technically more stable than anything shown at a HK IMAX theater?

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It gets worse, and yes, this one is for you UA Cinemas. My second viewing was at MegaBox as I wanted to compare how the digital projection deals with the different screen aspect ratios. Airport got the new widescreen standard while MegaBox is still in the original IMAX screen aspect ratio. As expected a large portion of the screen simply remained black at MegaBox. No, the image did not extend to fullscreen like it did 2008 at the DARK KNIGHT shows. What I didn’t expected was a tremendously dirty screen. the entire lower left corner had black stripes and full black areas. See UA, when I want to have a nostalgic cinema experience with a dirty screen I go to the Dynasty!

Then there is something very local to the image, Chinese subtitles. On regular theater screens they are  barely noticeable after getting used to. On IMAX they become 1m monsters. Double line subs occupy the entire lower third and during the first act of the film you’ll find them mostly spreading over actors faces.

When it comes to sound, both venues had flawless presentations. MegaBox however, had a far more profound impact on the bass and subwoofers which made the seats rumble and your guts vibrate during action scenes. On this aspect, it was a most immersive experience.

Shadows betray you

All this (except for the sound) is by far not what Christopher Nolan intended and how he wants us to experience his work. HK’s IMAX screens proof digital 2K is inadequate, simply false advertisement and a mere rip-off in ticket prices. But where should you go to see Nolan’s $250million spectacle in real 70mm IMAX projection? Wikipedia holds a list of all IMAX theaters around the globe with indication on what venue still projects in the 15 perf colossus. But be careful, basically every venue with the words “space”, “museum”, “dome” or “science” is most likely an older OMNIMAX screen which will not show feature films. If you have the needed change, catch a flight to Bangkok, Taipei or Seoul, cause that’s the closest real 70mm IMAX projection gets to HK.

I found another screen size comparison of different venues. This time it focuses on IMAX screens in Taiwan in comparison to the Sydney one. Just so you get an idea how IMAX defines its latest generation of giant micro screens within the region. China is seeing quite a lot of those small, newly setup theaters.

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Image legend (from top right, going down and to the left):

– Vieshow Big City Hsinchu & IMAX – 17.76m x 9.71m

 

– SunVieShow IMAX, Taipei – 21m x 11.3m

 

– Vie Show Cinemas Banciao Mega City IMAX – 21.4m x 11.45m

 

– Standard IMAX screen – 22m x 16.1m

 

– Miramar IMAX – 28.8 x 21.16m

 

– LG IMAX Sydney – 35.73m x 29.42m

 

– Kaohsiung VieShow IMAX – 15.9m x 8.2m

 

– Kaohsiung Dream Mall Cinemark Cine X house (not IMAX) – 20m x 8.2m

 

– Kaohsiung E-Da World Ambassador Cinema Sky House (not IMAX) – 20m x 8.5m

 

– Taipei Ambassador Theater 3DX House (not IMAX) – 22m x 12m

 

– Vie Show Cinemas Taichung Top City IMAX – 18.25m x 9m

 

– Vie Show Cinemas Taichung Tiger City IMAX – 16m x 9m

Ultimately, the big question is: Despite all the shortfalls of all 3 IMAX screens in HK why do people keep flocking in to DARK KNIGHT RISES shows? It’s fairly simple. Despite all cinema chains’ agenda to decrease th
e size of new screens audiences want it big. Why would you go to a theater like UA Shatin when your TV set at home is even bigger in size and the BluRay player offers even better quality? The local theater policy turned the mini-IMAX screens into giants amongst the dwarfs.

Let me close with the following advertisement I found in the Bangkok Post. The city’s Paragon cinema explains the advantage of its superior screening system. An ad that comes from the cinema itself, not Warner. I also like the “2D” indication, which by now seems to be a selling point to audiences, cause after all Batman 2D competes with Spiderman 4D here.

Imaxthai

Haexagon Concepts monthly recap – July 2012

— The monthly recap post will present you a summary of all our activities and projects during the past month as well as most relevant campaigns from film/ad/TV/web. —

Staff activities:

july 9 – we helped out on our partner SoBig Production’s shoot, a doc feature about the redevelopment process in Kwun Tong, shot vertical! The project will be presented during the Venice Biennale.

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july 13 – review on PAINTED SKIN 2 at Macau Daily: (PDF file)

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july 14 – we went to BarcampHK and presented our “story pitch”, educating on what trans-media is and what it means to HK.

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july 15 – review on $UPERCAPITALIST: http://www.lovehkfilm.com/blog/thegoldenrock/2012/07/15/the-golden-rock-supercaptitalist-edition-featuring-guest-blogger-marco-sparmberg/

july 19-25 – Marco visited the Network of Asian Fantastic Film’s Filmmakers Lab at PiFan2012. All pic galleries here https://haexagon.wordpress.com/tag/pifanbucheonpuchonfilmfest

EAST SCREEN WEST SCREEN shows this month:

Our project updates

Our webseries Squattertown is now part of the newly re-launched New Action Express scheme by CreateHK. As managing authority of this fund the HK Arts Center will distribute the project to partnering festivals around the globe till fall 2013.

We also started co-operating with the Manila based production company Paper Boat Pictures and helping them to get a transmedia campaign for their new feature film off the ground in the Philippines.

Other Campaigns

This month we saw a couple of campaign starts like M. Night Shyamalan’s AFTER EARTH and the reboot of ROBOCOP. And of course we saw the final conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman series rising. While the general THE DARK KNIGHT RISES transmedia campaign was so fragmented and disorganized one remarkable side branch popped out: the campaign to Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack was terrific and created a unique situation. Never before was a soundtrack album that anticipated and hyped before its release. We will analyze this campaign in particular with a future blog post soon.

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Meanwhile in China: PAINTED SKIN 2 wound up to be the most profitable film in Chinese cinema history. Allegedly due to a sophisticated marketing strategy. However, giving a simple photo app and set gossip news spread credit for this success would be naive. This article sums up all important aspects and describes how the producers targeted the film to a specific market and audience while gaining government support: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2012/jul/31/painted-skin-2-china-storm