This summer, Fox launched a new program focused on exploring emerging forms of storytelling enabled by new technologies. Behind the Lights, spoke with the sponsors of this initiative to learn more.

The Fox Content Innovation Program is a collaboration between the Fox Innovation Lab and TCFF Strategy & Business Development, which is a research and development center for new technology and consumer experiences that works across 21CF including the film and television departments. Both groups share a goal of bringing new models of innovation to the studio and joined forces this summer to experiment with storytelling and development in an emerging media and to attract a young pool of talent.

The summer program brought together a diverse team of students specializing in a range of disciplines from colleges and universities across the country. The team was tasked with designing and prototyping a narrative experience based on the Fox lot using augmented reality (AR) technology.

“To develop this experience, we recruited a creative and technical team with strengths in story development as well as gaming, design, and programming,” said Sonya Joo, Vice President Strategy & Business Development. “We see that this next generation of talent is essential for the future development of emerging consumer entertainment.”

The project objective was to demonstrate AR’s potential as a tool for creating immersive entertainment in a public space and demonstrate the application’s ability to capture user behavior data that can be applied for targeted marketing and promotion.

“Where the majority of AR we see today are one-off interactions, we wanted to explore techniques whereby a series of AR activations become plot points for a cohesive story,” said Robert Powers, Executive Director Global Technology and Business Development. “AR’s ability to blend digital creative with the physical world renders any public space an immediate avenue for storytelling.”

In less than 9 weeks, the team prototyped an AR experience using the physical location of the Fox lot as a framework for linking a variety of user interactions – all driven by a compelling storyline that they created. FX and BlueSky contributed creative assets.

Each user enters the experience as an intern on their first day in the Archive Department. When a mysterious force descends upon the lot, what starts off as normal day on the job quickly turns into an adventure across the lot as users engage with characters and moments from the studio’s past in order to celebrate the legacy of 20th Century Fox.

With a condensed timeframe to build a prototype, the team utilized a hybrid approach that combined traditional game/film production with rapid prototyping and iterative design. “From story development through execution, both creative and technical team members worked together, giving feedback and iterating the AR experience while maintaining the overall narrative,” said Sonya. This unique approach enabled them quickly to test and learn and to move forward at an accelerated pace.

In addition, the interns worked with Fox to put together a whitepaper outlining the entire development process and highlighting key takeaways from the pilot project.

Overall, the project team had a great experience. “The program provided a great environment to encourage experimentation of new storytelling mediums and for acting as an incubator for young creative talent,” said Cameron Koyama, Lead Developer. “The process continuously sparked new inspiration amongst the team and constant conversation about what can be done with AR.”

Future applications of the framework built could extend to other public spaces such as theme parks or campuses and can also include opportunities for brand extensions and promotions. The project provided an opportunity for both students and Fox executives to gain valuable learnings about a new form of storytelling.

Project Team
Andrew Bennett,
University of Georgia
Benjamin Lee, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
Sicong Tian, University of Southern California (USC)
Edward Lok, University of California Irvine (UCI)
Janelynn Camingue, University of California Santa Cruz
Ysdiro Hartzell, USC
Shilen Patel, UCLA Anderson
David Nelson, Faculty Advisor, USC