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Developing rich media for museums: a way forward?

By: Dr Lynda Kelly, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 09 Jan 2012

Rich media (i.e. video) is fast becoming a key way to present museum content both onsite, online and via mobile. How can this work in a manageable and structured way? 

Web 2U (#4)

Michael Hugill © Australian Museum

The amount of traffic generated by YouTube is phenomenal. According to this infographic, in 2011YouTube had 490,000,000 unique visitors generating 92,000,000,000 visits each month! So, certainly rich media is something we cannot ignore.

Now that I have taken over responsibility for exhibition editing, working with my new team I have been thinking about how we can both develop and manage rich, digital content across all of our sites (that is online, physical and mobile), as well as meeting expectations of a range of internal stakeholders.

I’ve been thinking that there are three levels of or approaches to rich content: the quick; rapid response and the high-level. Think of the quick as akin to an iPad / smartphone movie – capturing a quick moment, event or visitor feedback. – for example this launch of one of our programs. The quick should take no longer than five minutes from capture to update, need little (if any) editing and minimal (if any) branding. Here‘s an example of a quick movie at the 2011 launch of Science in the City.

The rapid response idea is a piece that needs a little more editing work, but should only require a maximum shoot of around 10-15 minutes. These videos should be turned around in 24 hours or less and include a response to what’s in the news that day (for example this video on a sperm whale) or something interesting behind the scenes (for example this video on framing up an exhibition).

The high-level is a full-blown production – needing a storyboard, higher production values, budget as well as time and access to decent editing software. It would be akin to developing movies for a physical exhibition or a promotion, such as this fantastic Genghis Khan promo from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

We know that watching the moving image has always held a fascination for humans. Now, in the YouTube age, anyone can be a writer, director, producer as well as star. Reflecting on 2011’s top ten videos viewed on YouTube is rather depressing. Rebecca Black, a talking dog, and something called cone-ing made the Australian top ten. Museums can do so much better! The trick is to manage expectations and accept that some content may not be as polished as we’re used to, but at least it’s out there.

I'm hoping the the three-tiered system outlined above can help us manage this complex and fascinating area. Be interested to hear other approaches to developing rich media across your museum sites.

2 comments

Michael Hugill - 3.01 PM, 18 January 2012

The trick, for us in Web team anyway, will be getting stakeholders to decide what kind of video they want as early as possible in the process. That'll involve explaining how turn-around time is linked with quality, and a clear decision.

I agree with you, the web moves so fast that it's better to have an unpolished video in the conversation, than a polished video that arrives too late for anyone to talk about.

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