Bluebird AR

Kyle Vandercamp, played by Travis Nippard, Bluebird AR, 2010
Kyle Vandercamp, played by Travis Nippard, Bluebird AR, 2010

Where to start? This was the most fun, rewarding and exhausting of all the projects I’ve pitched and been funded to do. It was a true digital first production. Such a massive project requires quite a bit of time to explain, unpick and analyse. Even though it was made in 2010, I recently spoke at a conference where its premise and outcomes remain at the bleeding edge of present thinking in digital narrative. Influential at the time across the European television community (presented at MIP on two separate occasions), and in science debate in this country, Bluebird AR remains a fascinating study in digital narrative production on many levels. After the production wound down, we spent time thoroughly archiving the experience. Explore Bluebird AR:

This open archive offers a wealth of insight into digital narrative production and documents the production of Bluebird AR in great detail.
This open archive offers a wealth of insight into digital narrative production and documents the production of Bluebird AR in great detail.

What audiences and media said about it?

Take this link to see production credits.

An infusion of drama, realism, near futurism, community participation/creation/authorship, a live thought experiment writ large with a global active audience of 150K and a passionate core of players who gave hours daily to the events as they unfolded over seven weeks. A trove of insights into online drama production and treasured insight for TV producers wanting to create and produce online.

I received an AWGIE for story and script, alongside Amy Nelson (co-creator) and Marissa Cooke (co-script writer). Bluebird AR functioned on many levels and was an exhausting, unforgettable delight to have made.

Below are some highlights from the production. Watch the factual documentary, Now I can change the World, that we made to support the veracity of the narrative.Initially the story had a more fantastic plot, centred on crowd sourcing the decoding of a message from the future about what might be in store for life on our planet if we continue to fail to manage climate change. However, the story evolved into a realistic scenario – the tale of a greentech billionaire entrepreneur wanting to save the world from climate disaster with his own geoengineering initiative.

Juanita Monte (Lisbeth Kennelly), the documentary filmmaker who's work is upended by events in Bluebird AR
Juanita Monte (Lisbeth Kennelly), the documentary filmmaker who’s work is upended by events in Bluebird AR

Bluebird AR’s story was based around one of the most contentious debates in international climate politics at the time, the issue of geoengineering as a possible solution to climate change.
What sets Bluebird AR apart is the compelling use of 100% factual online content when referring to both the science and the debate throughout the project: real science and scientists, legitimate websites and authoritative published content within which the gameplay was melded.

Geoengineering methods (illustrated by Georgie Ibarra)
Geoengineering methods (illustrated by Georgie Ibarra)

The world’s top experts in the field were consulted in assessing the feasibility of the narrative. In playing or watching Bluebird AR, a user had no choice but to be educated about what is going to become one of the most important issues of our era – the international response to Climate Change.

From left to right, Stamatia Maroupas (camera and video production manager), Gil Balfas (Harrison Wyld), Paul Kruger (Michael Cormick), and Sam Doust (writer/director), on the set of Bluebird AR.
From left to right, Stamatia Maroupas (camera and video production manager), Gil Balfas (Harrison Wyld), Paul Kruger (Michael Cormick), and Sam Doust (writer/director), on the set of Bluebird AR.

The two hours of dramatic sequences produced for Bluebird AR fall into two categories – scenes that acted as clues to help establish the back story of Harrison Wyld’s Bluebird project, and character video diaries produced during the 6 week “live” phase of Bluebird AR. Read more about the production.

Visualising the alternate reality also required CG elements, from digital stills to photo-realistic animated sequences. The two videos below were pieces shared with players and used to celebrate the end of the narrative/game world, particularly poignant for those who were heavily involved.
This was one of the final pieces of video in the drama, showing a decisive showdown between the two leads, Harrison Wyld and Paul Kruger, and triggering the End Game – the third act and finale, which culminated in a dual ending.
Drama played out across all sorts of platforms and media. Below you can listen to Paul Kruger’s voice memos, which when collated together evocatively explain his character’s arc. If you can’t see the audio player below (on iPad, for example), you can go straight to the mp3 here.
Paul Kruger’s personal memos reveal a slowly uncovered character arc that spans the whole story of Bluebird AR, and allowed players to uncover the truth and motivations about the most complex of the characters.

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