The responsibility as audio visual technology providers is to make sure that the technology we use enhances the story or the message we are amplifying. Our mission must be a continuous reinforcement of good storytelling and integrating our technology into the environment as unobtrusively as possible.
Human beings have always engaged in storytelling. From our distant ancestors sitting around in a cave to today’s TikTok content creators, we have always found value in sharing our stories with one another and entertaining each other. For many years, the way to hear others’ stories was to go to their homes or to a community event where others were gathered.
Arguably, one of the biggest tectonic shifts in storytelling happened when radio gained wide acceptance in our homes. This allowed us to hear stories to be told by others in the comfort of our own homes without having to physically invite someone in. Stories could now be told from around the globe. We could hear about fantasy worlds. There were characters that we grew to know and love. Radio changed our interaction with storytelling and made it possible for us to have “appointment” storytelling (since early radio shows were broadcast like television shows, on certain days and times).
While missing the visual engagement that movies offered, radio was the first broadly accepted technology that changed the family home into an environment where the noise of storytelling was not only welcomed but came to be expected and anticipated. And it did one more thing that could not have been anticipated when radio launched: it created a personal relationship between the storyteller and listeners.
With the advent of television and larger and larger movie screens, the visual component of storytelling came to be more important. Big screen televisions replaced smaller black and white sets, and movie screens went from a single screen in a theater to the larger multiplex style theaters where ten movies might premiere in a weekend.
Interestingly, while we have seen screens grow larger over time, (think huge LED screens, IMAX screens, flat screen TVs) our screens have also been shrinking to fit into the palm of our hands.
How, then, do we link technology to storytelling in this new environment of smaller screens and more intimate interaction with storytelling?
Chief among the ways we can see this crossover is to look at immersive environments. Although we are used to fairly passive rides at amusement parks (think It’s a Small World), we’ve come to love the addition of new technologies that include VR interactions, high end video interactions and incredible lighting effects (think Super Mario Land at Universal). At the root of each of these attractions, regardless of the technology employed, is good, solid storytelling. The designers of immersive/interactive attractions use the same basic concepts our ancestors came up with while sitting in a cave trying to explain the origins of the universe to capture our imaginations and bring us into the intimacy of the story.
We may be impressed by the spectacle of technology in the presentation of the story, but there is an argument to be made that technology merely enhances the story, adding color and flavor.
For example, the crazy amount of technology that was used to create Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera on Broadway didn’t replace the solid story lines of those shows, or the emotional impact of the songs. If we think that these shows were hits just because of the technology employed, how can we explain why Starlight Express, which utilized far more technology (including actors on skates simulating a train), was such a phenomenal flop?
Video games continue to become more interactive, employing VR technologies to enhance the user experience, but unless the story is engaging, the audience will not embrace them, no matter how fancy the technology used.
The same applies for any environment where we use audio, video or lighting technology to enhance storytelling. The best use of these technologies is transparent, where the audio is clear and easily heard and understood, video augments the messaging without replacing it, and the lighting is used to enhance the environment and bring the eye’s attention to where the message is being delivered.
Our responsibility as an audio visual technology provider is to make sure that the technology we use enhances the story or the message we are amplifying. This is true in any environment from a house of worship to a theme park ride to a corporate conference room. Our job is always to make the technology seem like a native element of the environment and not a main feature of an environment.
To be clear, the technological advances we have achieved in the last several decades have allowed us to stretch the idea of storytelling and to reach audiences in a different way. Used appropriately, technology can help us to reach an audience that may otherwise not find a way to connect with the material. Suitable technology affords those with a physical or mental condition that limits movement, senses, or activities, new ways to interact with the story being told. And an apt use of technology may bridge the gap between groups that have little in common.
Our mission at Procraft Media, as audio, video and lighting professionals, must be a continuous reinforcement of good storytelling and integrating our technology into the environment as unobtrusively as possible. If the story isn’t clearly visible through the technology we are using, we know it is time to review the AV design for improvement. Do you have a story to tell? Contact us to start collaborating.