This year we are delighted to host the 2023 FOCAL Awards at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms on June 15th, we hope you can join us. Congratulations to all the shortlisted nominees.
2023 shortlisted nominations
StoryTrails - The People's Metaverse
Will Saunders, Amanda Murphy, Madeline Bates, Sarah Smyth, Kylie Bryant, Claire Cook
Archive Producer/ Researchers:
Rebecca Thompson, Nessa Dundon, Holly Elson, Vici Evans, Madeline Bates
BBC, BFI, National Library of Scotland (NLS), National Library of Wales (NLW), Media Archive Central England, North West Film Archive, Wessex Archive, Film London - London Screen Archives, Yorkshire Film Archive/North East Film Archive (YFA/NEFA)
StoryFutures, Nexus Studios, ISO Design, Produce UK, The Reading Agency, BFI, BBC, Uplands
Country of Production:
StoryTrails was the UK’s largest immersive storytelling project to date. A unique touring experience of VR/AR and mixed reality experiences in 15 different towns and cities across the UK. National and hyper-local in equal measure from Swansea to Slough and from Bradford to Bristol, StoryTrails invited audiences to see their hometown differently.
Hidden histories were explored in augmented reality walking trails, immersive films about each town were experienced on giant cylcoramic screens installed into public libraries, and pop up VR hubs appeared that re-imagined film and tv archive to share new stories about Britain’s relationship with itself and its past.
StoryTrails brought together some of the UK’s most established media names alongside companies at the cutting edge of spatial storytelling. The lead partner was StoryFutures, the UK’s National Centre for Immersive Storytelling, working with the BBC, the British Film Institute, Niantic, Nexus Studios, Uplands Television, ISODesign, Produce UK and The Reading Agency. StoryTrails was funded by the UK government as part of a nationwide festival of creativity and innovation, Unboxed 2022.
The following is a case study that reflects how one of the project’s technical partners designed the augmented reality walking trails and activated archive in innovative ways:
StoryTrails uniquely unlocked our shared screen heritage by opening up access to over 50 archive sources from across all UK regions and nations as well as BFI and BBC national collections.
By re-situating 2D collections within 3D spatial storytelling, StoryTrails made archive available to creatives and communities to reinterpret, reanimate and reconnect with the heritage these collections represent.
StoryTrails made archive resonate with communities by blending archive with cutting-edge immersive technology and brilliant storytelling:
“I liked how it the virtual reality stuff made it feel like a game but then the archival footage made it feel like real life. It made it feel like this was for adults and children. Without the footage it would have felt more like a game and less like reality.” – (25 year old male, survey respondent, Blackpool)
89% of people rated the VR experiences 4* or higher (out of 5*).
The stories shared in StoryTrails surfaced lesser-known histories brought to life in 3D interactive dioramas, virtual reality experiences and augmented reality walking trails. In Blackpool you could explore the LGBT+ history of the town and its legendary club scene, whilst in Lambeth you could strut Winifred Attwell’s honky tonk walk and celebrate the first Black British artist to have a number 1 hit single.
ERA BBC Shakespeare Archive Resource
Country of Production:
The ERA BBC Shakespeare Archive Resource on the ERA website provides online access to a vast and diverse collection of over 1000 programmes, perfect for enhancing understanding of the Bard and his work. This comprehensive educational resource, which includes numerous productions of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as documentaries, comedies and interviews relating to this towering literary figure, offers educators and students easy access to the highest quality audio-visual content to support teaching, learning and research. The Archive is presented via a streamlined, searchable platform from which educators can easily find and access the specific Shakespeare content they need to support teaching, learning and research.
From Tony Richardson's classic 1955 production of Othello (the first ever to be televised) to contemporary interpretations such as Polly Findlay’s The Merchant of Venice, first broadcast in 2020, alongside insightful and enlightening critical analyses of Shakespeare’s work, the BBC Shakespeare Archive illustrates the immense educational value of broadcast recordings to the education sector.
The comprehensive range of productions available offers students access to diverse interpretations of the plays, from versions that recreate what are believed to be Shakespeare’s intended stagings, to modern re-imaginings with revolutionary approaches to staging and characterisation.
The BBC Shakespeare Archive Resource supports educators and students examining Shakespeare and his works at all levels of education, bringing the archive collection to new audiences. For Anna Porter, an English teacher at a comprehensive in inner London, “having such an innovative and flexible resource to hand in the classroom helps to guide and encourage a more sophisticated and nuanced discussion amongst my pupils. I’ve used the Shakespeare Archive extensively teaching English at GCSE and A Level - it’s so helpful being able to show different productions and talk about differing performances and directors’ interpretations with a class.”
Using archive material outside of the traditional broadcast sphere adds great value to teaching and learning and can also be used to support teacher planning. The collection has been carefully curated to enable users to find the most appropriate content for their needs, using the platform’s advanced search tools and filters.
The depth and range of the available programming facilitates a fresh and diverse approach to understanding Shakespeare’s works. The sheer volume and variation of content provides an archive collection unrivalled by any other educational platform.
Peter Rippon, Helen Toland, Jake Berger
Warren Bell, Ciaran Daly, Noel McCartney, Gordon Adair, Mark Macey
Archive Researchers/ Producer:
Darren McLarkey, Patricia Buller, Áine Quinn, Rónán Breathnach-Cashell, Kathy Wilford
Country of Production:
BBC Rewind fulfils a long-held BBC public service ambition to allow access to thousands of films from our news and current affairs archive, putting decades of social history at the fingertips of every UK citizen.
The project grew from a desire to maximise and optimise the burgeoning pool of digitised content available as a result of BBC Archive's future-leaning strategy. A fully-hybrid technology and editorial team was convened to develop best practice across the project, allowing exploration and utilisation of new and emerging technologies.
The team adopted an agile, iterative approach, launching initially as a pilot project to a small user base in public libraries. Live user data helped refine the site and a limited public launch followed, to allow for further user analysis and feedback.
The final product, launched summer 2022, includes significant new and enhanced features and film assets from across the UK. These 33,000+ archive clips are now interrogable via intelligent search of freshly enriched metadata, both editorially-driven, manual refinement (e.g. locations, categories), and innovative machine-learning tools (e.g. searchable speech-to-text transcripts). The addition of Rewind’s popular interactive map, as well as an overhaul of the original UX, resulted in a transformed website to mark BBC 100 celebrations.
The BBC’s audio-visual archive is one of the richest worldwide, and a prized asset for the corporation. It has been built up over decades, thanks to the dedication, foresight and innovation of generations of archivists. This archive is the foundation stone for BBC Rewind, which itself is the culmination of years of dovetailing technical innovation and editorial experience in the BBC’s content, media management and software development teams.
Rewind was born out of an objective to establish increased value from archive digitisation work, to think beyond traditional platforms for exploitation, and to extend availability of the rich social history captured by BBC cameras.
Rewind gives access to content largely unseen by the general public since original transmission. Previously, access was limited to those working for the BBC, reaching audiences only through edited, usually brief, excerpts used within programmes, or through social media.
Rather than curating archive into narratives to present to audiences, Rewind innovates by offering audiences the ability to create their own personal journeys through the broadcast archive going back decades, at a scale previously impossible. As a by-product of this, it is now inspiring rich editorial seams and commercial opportunities, by dint of its very public availability.
In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats
Ashley Cowan, Dan Tucker, Darren Emerson
Footage Archive Producer:
BBC Archives, Getty Archives, ITV Archives, Kinolibrary
East City Films
Country of Production:
In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats is a fully immersive, room scale multi-sensory VR experience that takes audiences into one night in 1989, where they play the role of someone on the search for an illegal Acid House party.
East City Films have been working in VR since 2015 and our focus has been very much around documentary story telling in this medium. As a creator of VR Darren Emerson has often explored ways of including archive imagery, video and audio into the worlds he is building. The aim is to seamlessly interweave archive within the environment that the audience inhabit, and to allow them to participate in a deeper documentary journey by finding joy and deeper contextual meaning through interaction and game mechanics. He uses projection mapping within VR environments, creates materials that can be picked up and examined, and finds ways of integrating archive sound sources that can be engaged with physically and aurally.