Bla Bla

UPDATE: MARCH 15, 2012: Bla Bla won the SXSW Interactive Award.

Is it a film or a game? Interactivity and non-linear storytelling have been more the realm of gaming than short filmmaking, but the two fields are slowly merging. In the coming years, interactivity promises to become a valuable tool in the short filmmaker’s arsenal. Bla Bla created for the NFB by Montreal director Vincent Morisset is one of the more ambitious and successful interactive film experiments I’ve seen. The press release below contains lots of details about what it’s all about. But first, be sure to spend some time exploring the film itself by going HERE.

Vincent Morisset’s BLA BLA is an interactive tale that explores the fundamental principles of human communication. The viewer makes the story possible: without him or her, the characters remain inert, waiting for the next interaction. The spectator clicks, plays and searches through the simple, uncluttered scenes, truly driving the experience.

Each of the six chapters in the story depicts a different aspect of communication: learning a language, making small talk, expressing emotions, etc. Rich in opportunities for discovery, BLA BLA illustrates these concepts through endearing yet perplexing characters. The figures were designed by Caroline Robert using a variety of techniques, both traditional and hi-tech.

“BLA BLA uses xerography, drawing on paper, ActionScript-generated animations, puppet stop-motion combined with real-time 3D mapping, etc.,” Morisset explains. “I am inspired by projects that feel free aesthetically. I wanted BLA BLA to feel hand-made, imperfect, fragile, so we forget about the technology.”

The music as well as the characters’ speech were fragmented into tiny clips and then scored through programming. Composer Philippe Lambert designed a progressive soundscape that uses “controlled randomness.” Morisset relied on the skills of software developer Édouard Lanctôt-Benoît for the programming of BLA BLA.

The work stands apart in its emphasis on achieving an emotional response in the viewer/actor. “I wanted to create moods and generate emotions through an interactive piece,” Morriset says. “It’s quite hard to do dramatic crescendos on a website… I thought it would be an interesting challenge.”

As part of the creative process for BLA BLA, Morisset extensively researched interactive narrative. Seeking a filmmaking language specific to the online realm, he defined a new grammar of non-linear editing. Through the very format of the work, he therefore questions the challenges of communication and of telling a story in which the spectator is a participant: “The project in itself explores the grammar of a new medium,” he says.

BLA BLA thus offers a new vision of communication in the wider sense, of how our natural behaviours and interactions with others play out in the world. “The relation between the user and the film is part of the message,” Morriset explains. “We wrote and created it based on universal stuff: the social nature of humans, our fear of the unknown, the desire for appropriation and freedom, and paradoxically the love of being taken by the hand.”

Morisset has been exploring the narrative potential of interactive art for twelve years now. His pioneering work in the field has included several collaborations with the group Arcade Fire, including “be oNline B”, widely considered the first interactive music video, and MIROIR NOIR, a documentary portrait of the band. With the support of the NFB, he now offers us BLA BLA, a one-of-a-kind experience that further refines his hallmark: re-imagining “once upon a time” for the digital age.

Direction, Animation and Compositing
Vincent Morisset

Sound, Music and Voice
Philippe Lambert

Programming and Technology
Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit

Visual Design and Animation
Caroline Robert

Puppet Armature Design
Jean-François Lévesque

Vincent Lambert

Minelly Kamemura

Additional Prototype Programming
Mathieu Campagna

Prototype 3D Modelling and Animation
Joshua Sherrett
Jonathan Fleming-Bock

(Thanks, J. J. Sedelmaier)

Bla Bla
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Amid Amidi

Amid Amidi

Amid Amidi is Cartoon Brew's Publisher and Editor-at-large.

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