WireWAX: Taggable Video Tool

Sheri Candler (one of the best consultants out there for microbudget filmmakers) just turned me on to a very promising new tool for adding fluid clickable tags to online videos. Since announcing in Dec. 2009, English start-up WireWAX has continued to develop and perfect an application for adding dynamic tags to videos. Once a video is tagged, users can click on people or objects in that video, triggering links and other info - and WireWAX will track all that activity and report it back to the filmmaker.

Clickable video isn't entirely new, but what's important about WireWAX is that it offers filmmakers a tool for building upon what we already know and love about the Web - links - allowing us to embed dynamic content into our filmmaking in a ways that promise total control, ease of use and powerful analytics. Seen in this light, WireWAX is a revolutionary experiment. I hope the developers can market WireWAX and make it cheaper. Even though there's a free version, using WireWAX gets pricey quickly (which might go a long way to answering this nagging question: "If it's so great, why aren't more people using it?"). Still, WireWAX is a new online tool that points the way to how the audience will soon be interacting with motion picture narratives online.

Think about it: We're already used to clicking on links and following our interests as we surf the web. Forward-thinking online filmmakers (and the people designing tools for them) realize that these online habits (users following their own interests online) point the way to the future of filmmaking.

Beginning, middle and end are so Web 1.0: In the future, you'll still be able to stream and watch old-school narratives like "Thor," but what if we don't really want to stick with that (predictable?) narrative this time, but instead we want to watch a video about Thor's hammer - or read a few pages from a comic book about Thor's origins? And not all online films will be as linear as "Thor." Is it possible to make a film where the main story is just a portal to hundreds of other stories? That's what's so exciting about WireWAX: The audience can choose their own path through a story and the filmmakers can track those choices and make content that responds to audience choice.

Being able to click on a character or object in a scene - to gather more information or watch a video or engage in a live twitter feed or any other option that takes you into another layer of the story - is a small but significant step forward in making films that are more interactive.

WireWAX (advertised as being available both as an embeddable player or a plugin to a 3rd party video platform like YouTube) looks to be a very powerful tool for adding tags to videos. Starting with a free version that allows only a limited number of views - and then (unfortunately) quickly ramping up in price, WireWAX provides a tool for filmmakers (or anyone with permission) to add tags that track with a person or object - while recording every second of each viewer's activity, including where they pause, play, rewind, skip, share with a friend.

WireWAX's intelligent tags allow the filmmaker (or users with permission) to place content within the original video – from images, links and other videos to geo-specific data, links to databases and Flash applications. This has great potential for advertising and layered storytelling. And it's apparently very easy to add WireWAX tags and interact with them (see the "how to" video below).

What's more, WireWAX videos can apparently be shared on social networks or embedded on other sites and platforms and all the tags and associated content remain intact. (Of course, I can't seem to find any evidence of such videos online yet.)

“One of the key points about what’s different about WireWAX,” explains WireWAX co-founder and CEO Steve Callanan, “is that when you click on a tag everything that pops up happens in that frame, so that when you embed that video elsewhere it all goes with it.”

It's tough to find any evidence of filmmakers using the application so far (the beta process of WireWAX has apparently been slow - there isn't even a good WireWAX-made demo on YouTube) and the tags in the videos I have been able to find are (in my opinion) ugly and intrusive - best suited for ads. But these are quibbles. Apparently users of the current version of WireWAX can turn off all the tags and just watch the video. And there is a mode where dragging the cursor over an object will illuminate a tag if one is there. Maybe, in the next version, the WireWAX tags will be more subtle or the user might have more control over which tags are displayed (e.g., only tags relating to certain content can be turned on?). But I'm eager to hear more about the WireWAX experiment.

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