Klynt Interactive Workshop Review

August 22, 2014 1:38 pm

HUBS A

At each of our Interactive Workshops we’ll have the excellent Gemma McKinnie acting as our reporter on the ground, researching how each interactive platform works, what it does well and maybe what it doesn’t do so well. There’s a host of platforms for creating interactive content and we plan to get to the bottom of which ones are the best for what type of content and content creator. Gemma was at the first event at Sheffield Doc/Fest with Klynt and she’ll be with us again in Bristol with Racontr which you can find out more information about here. Here’s what Gemma thought of Klynt.

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“The software was born because of our needs in production”, says Maria Gemayel of Klynt. Designed as an in-house tool by Honkytonk Films, she explains that producer Arnaud Dressen and director Samuel Bollendorff wanted “quick and easy” software that would make Journey to the End of Coal (2008), a film about the working conditions of Chinese miners, into an interactive online experience. The original prototype of Klynt, created in 2008, was known as ‘Webdoc Editor’, and brought a ‘choose your own adventure’ function to online documentary narrative. The Honkytonk experiment was successful: the first interactive documentary to ever feature on Le Monde’s website, Journey achieved 1.5 million page views and won the Prix SCAM 2009 Digital Interactive Artwork award. The first public release of Klynt then came in 2011, and was developed in Flash.

Since its release, Klynt has moved beyond independent production companies. It has progressed laterally across online services and institutions, as they begin to recognise the potential of interactivity as a tool to expand the scope of their reports. Newspaper groups, from La Repubblica to TV5 Monde to Agence France Presse, have used it to allow their online readers to choose their routes through a visual article. NGOs such as Enfants du Mekong and Greenpeace, meanwhile, are using it as a means of allowing multiple important stories to be told in a democratic way, without an implied narrative hierarchy in place. The Honkytonk website now has a one-line summary description for the Klynt app: it’s a ‘research project’, that’s ‘designed for creative makers to explore the art & craft of interactive storytelling’.

Its progress has been steady, keeping up with the emergence of Web 2.0. Klynt v.2 came out in 2013 in HTML5, with the Klynt Player released as open source software. Klynt v2.11, the newest version available, is responsive, so that the films made with the app can be viewed across platforms, from computers to tablets and smartphones, without difficulty.

Klynt comes in professional and light versions, and a one-month free trial can be downloaded from www.klynt.com. Its setup is relatively easy. Like the learn-to-code website Codecademy, Klynt tells you how much of the installation process you’ve completed as you go. The layout of the app’s media editor should be familiar to any user of professional video editors such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro. On the left side of the screen is the media library, where sound, video, images and audio files are stored. At the bottom is a timeline. To import media, use the left hand menu, and click a file – audio, video, image – to drag and drop it to the timeline. Each piece of media is automatically recognised and categorised by its type of compression. Here, Klynt emphasises ‘good practice’ and advises that users compress files in the recommended settings before uploading them. Recommendations are available in Klynt’s Documentation pages – and when using Klynt, it becomes clear that not following their advice could lead the filmmaker into dead-ends of file incompatibility and sequential cul-de-sacs. Keeping the Documentation open beside you might be another example of good practice – it is extensive and easy to navigate. Even though Klynt does not require its users to code, its use of the principles of coding to organise much of its workflow means that a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS are definitely helpful. In fact, as an Open Source project, Klynt Player can be modified and customised if you are familiar with coding in Javascript or CSS.

On the right side of the screen is the storyboard, presented in a familiar ‘mindmapping’ style. Colourful boxes can hold selected files and information, which the filmmaker then links together as they wish by drawing lines between each box. These sequences can also be set to different sizes, to differentiate visually between sequences and sub-sequences. In this way, the user experience for their webdoc (or report) is developed. Intriguingly, the new Mindmap widget exposes the storyboard itself to the webdoc’s audience. In that context, it is intended to act as a menu, providing an overview and a guide to the interactive experience as a whole, and allowing the user to avoid repeating sequences. So the mindmapping style is simultaneously utilised by Klynt as a development tool for the filmmaker, and a reference tool for the viewer.

If you want to direct your viewer to an external website relevant to your project, the URL can be embedded into a button to create a link. With the iframes feature, it also becomes possible to embed external content from Youtube videos inside your project. In this case, the filmmaker picks the Youtube video, clicks ‘embed’ (share) and can then copy the code that Youtube provides into Klynt.

Accessible via the footer, Google Maps can provide geolocation information – a technique that has proven useful for projects that focus on particular geographic spaces. Several maps can be created if required. Klynt’s Miniplayer is designed to embed seamlessly in selected websites, and to maintain the correct aspect ratio for projects across different websites and screens. Its default aspect ratio is 970px x 545px. It’s advised that you select your preferred AR at the beginning of the process to retain consistency across your media. If you change the ratio later, not everything you have added to the project will adapt.

Your interactive project can be edited up until its publication online. Klynt, however, is not an editor in the sense that Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro are editors. Klynt is for finalised media, which the filmmaker wishes to adapt into an online interactive experience. It was emphasised throughout the tutorial at Sheffield Doc/Fest that it is good practice to immediately give a name to each sequence that you create for your project, so that you can keep track of each one. The names of your sequences can also be seen by the user later on, and will form the end of the URL for that webpage.

Klynt

The Desktop application for Klynt is local – you therefore need to know where all of your relevant files are stored on your computer. Its folder contains the file index.html (the home page for your finished project) and other necessary files. It’s important to note that Klynt duplicates all the files which you import from your hard drive into the app, which might cause storage space problems for larger projects. Uploading your project to the Internet can be tricky (and requires the separate purchase of server space and domain names), but Klynt offers a step-by-step guide to the process.

Klynt negotiates a delicate balance between simplicity and complexity: on the one hand, it presents filmmakers with an interface they’re familiar with (most will have used mindmaps and video editors before in their careers). This can let them develop an instinctive workflow for their project. In turn, they can give their viewers a stylish and original interactive narrative experience. However, simultaneously, Klynt has taken inspiration from the dense, specialized world of web coding to develop the underlying principles of the software. And occasionally, the language of code wins out over the language of film. Filmmakers without a predisposition for technology might be intimidated by the difference… but it’s important to point out that without Klynt, filmmakers would have to learn to code from scratch to achieve the same level of control over the online presentation of their work. Or they’d have to pay considerably more than the cost of a Klynt licence to hire someone in to do it for them.

Klynt ensures that all content created belongs to the filmmaker, and does not revert to Klynt through use of software. It holds regular webinars for beginner and advanced users of its software, available through their website. Klynt costs $599 for the full ‘pro’ edition and $199 for the ‘lite’ version, which comes without responsivity, iframe integration, or analytics from the project.

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