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Themed Entertainment & Immersive Technology: Live from SXSW 2012



Noob is a perfect term for this conference that really embraces “firsts.”

dina benadon super78 special venue media 3dBy Dina Benadon (@dinaS78).

SXSW started in 1987 as a music event that attracted 700 registrants. In 1994, SXSW added a film and interactive component to accommodate these growth industries. If you’re interested in the history of SXSW, there’s a good video above.

If you’re a numbers person, here are a few stats that will impress you. Between the event’s three festivals ‘ Music, Film and Interactive (the one I’m participating in) — there are 49, 216 registrants, and 71% of them are under the age of 41.

I’ll be one of 19, 364 attendees participating in the Interactive Festival. This SXSW particular event teems with marketers, web developers, social media experts, venture capitalists, educators and software developers. Notice that list does not include representation from the theme park industry’until now.

Not only am I attending my first SXSW, I’m also participating in a panel Sunday morning entitled ‘ “Multiplatform Storytelling: Frontline War Stories” (you can follow it on Twitter — #sxsw #frontline).

I’ll be joining some amazing creative/interactive leaders for this panel and together we’ll be sxsw interactive film media conference san antonio texashighlighting the promise and mechanics of participatory storytelling.

Joining me on the panel is Tracy Fullerton, professor and director of the Game Innovation Lab at the USC School of Cinematic Arts; Lance Weiler (@LanceWeiler), a storyteller, entrepreneur and thought leader who WIRED magazine named “One of twenty-five people helping to re-invent entertainment and change the face of Hollywood;” Jon M. Chu (@jonmchu), a feature film director of Touchstone Pictures’ Step Up 2 The Streets (2008), Step Up 3D (2010) and justin bieber never say never again film movieParamount Picture’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (2011); and Brian Seth Hurst (@BrianSethHurst), the CEO of The Opportunity Management Company, a strategic consultancy driving the next generation of entertainment, who will moderate.

In addition to our panel, there will be another 934 conference sessions that will cover a host of very exciting interactive topics. Navigating these sessions is certainly one of the most challenging aspects of SXSW ‘ optimizing your time to take part in as many great presentations and panels as possible.

What I’m really excited about seeing and participating in is anything that has to do with interactivity and today’s world of communicating. Also panels that involve psychology behind social interaction and visual storytelling.

Throughout this three-day interactive binge, I’ll be on the lookout for new technologies that speak to immersive and themed entertainment and how we can weave in new ways of communication when we’re creating entertainment for physical environments. I also want to become more familiar with the advancements made being made in the interactive gaming world for developments that can be directly applied to our industry.

SXSW’s original goal was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas. From what I hear, SXSW delivers that and more.jennifer kavanagh svp oxygen media

I think the energy of the conference is what is going to be the most infectious. And who knows?…Maybe I’ll even take in a few concerts! HA! Who has time for that??

Here’s a quick look at the presentations I plan to attend, along with Twitter hashtags you might want to follow if you too are interested in these topics:


Integrating Brands into Social Television (Sat. 9:30-10:30a Central Time) #sxsw #SocialTV

Featuring Jennifer Kavanagh (right), SVP Digital, Oxygen Media; Jonathan Carson (below left), CEO, Nielson Digital; Kristin Frank, SVP GM &, MTV Networks; Michael Cupo, Dir, Social Media, ESPN; Mike Shields, Digital Editor, Adweek, these panelists from different networks will discuss not only how social buzz is translating into ratings Jonathan Carson,  CEO,  Nielson Digital social mediasuccess, but how brands are also reaping the benefits from engaged audiences across the different social platforms through integrated advertising campaigns. The panel will also look at how social media buzz has replaced the old system of courting television and film critics and the ways networks are now courting millenials who are critics in their own right with active digital thumbprint.

Intellectual Property Issues in Social Media (Sat., 11a-12p) #sxsw #ip&sm

Featuring Daxton Stewart, Asst Professor, Media Law and Ethics, Texas Christian University; Kathleen Olson, Assoc Professor, Journalism, Lehigh University; Riyad Omar, VP, Principal Legal Officer, NewsRight; Victoria Ekstrand, Assoc Professor, Journalism & PR, Bowling Green State University, this panel of attorneys, scholars tiffany shlain founder connected the film,  movieand media professionals discuss how courts and the industry have been handling a range of issues ‘ information sharing and federal copyright law; tweeting breaking news; can images shared via Flickr or Facebook be used for news or marketing purposes, and the legal ramifications of mock Twitter accounts, among others.

Bianca Bosker tech editor Huffington PostHow Women Present Themselves in the Digital Age (Sat. 3:30-4:30p) #sxsw #huffpost

Featuring Bianca Bosker (left), Sr Tech Editor, The Huffington Post; Lisa Ling, EP and Host, OWN; Margaret Johnson, Women’s Editor, Huffington Post Media Group; Tiffany Shlain (right), Founder, Connected the Film ‘ this panel will delve into the sometimes paralyzing performance anxiety technology produces, how we can mitigate it, and discuss thorny questions about what should and should not be revealed online.

Crowd Sourced & Collaborative Story-Writing (Sat., 5:45-6 p) #sxsw #AuthorBee

This presentation by Stephen Bradley, Managing Director of Farmingville Capital, will discuss how user-generated content (UGC) has changed the face of the entertainment world forever and how, with the explosive growth of e-readers and e-books, non-professional enthusiasts have the opportunity to participate with others in the creation of new types of stories that build on the contributions and inspiration of many… stories that develop and unfold before their eyes, where they are both creator and consumer at once.

Rise of the Interactive Director As Creative Lead (Sun., 11a-12p) #sxsw #Risedustin callif digital social media interactive tv

Dustin Callif (right), Exec Producer Digital, Tool; and Grant Skinner, Interactive Dir, will discuss the how the interactive director has evolved into a role in which the technologist is directing the experience and creative. From interactive music videos and social entertainment to leveraging HTML5 to interactive installations, we’re seeing an explosion in innovative ways that interactive directors are allowing viewers to experience stories.

Brain As Interface: Future of Bio-Computing (Sun., 11:45a-12p) #sxsw #BrainInt

Lee Shupp, EVP, Cheskin Added Value will discuss the ultimate interface — your brain – biology connected to technology, wetware connected to hardware. Shupp will take a brief look at the evolution of interfaces for a historical perspective, then discuss the potential and perils of biological computing.


carrie chitsey 3seventy founder social media interactiveTech + the Evolution of the In-Store Experience (Sun., 3:30-4:30p) #sxsw #RetailNow

Featuring Carrie Chitsey (left), Founder & CEO, 3Seventy; Chris Harrison, COO, DMX Inc.; Ryan Kellogg, Assoc Dir of Emerging Technologies, Razorfish; and Tim Austin, CCO, TPN, this panel will focus on the future of the physical store and the consumer experience inside it, and explore the trends, possibilities, challenges and realities impacting today’s $3.4 trillion retail sector.

NASA’s Mission Possible: Tweeting thru Space (Sun., 5-6p) #sxsw #nasa

Erik Sowa, Dir, Engineering, ExactTarget Social Media Lab, and Stephanie Schierholz, Social Media Mgr for NASA will share how with 110 twitter accounts, 20 tweeting astronauts, an Image of the day posted to Facebook and more, NASA’s social media strategy is all about extending the space “experience”. For the last shuttle launch of Atlantis, 150 lucky individuals were invited to attend the official NASA Tweetup to experience the lift-off first-hand, with exclusive behind the scenes access to astronauts, facilities, lectures and more. Sowa and Schierholz will discuss the process behind this groundbreaking event.

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Charles Read

Charles is Managing Director at Blooloop. He attends numerous trade shows around the world and frequently speaks about trends and social media for the attractions industry at conferences. Outside of Blooloop his passions are diving, trees and cricket.

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