It’s a classic Sci Fi scenario: last man on Earth, technology destroyed. It has been done many ways in many eras.
One of the latest iterations is a big-budget film of Richard Matheson’s classic novel, “I Am Legend,” featuring Will Smith that is set to open this winter. An earlier film version of the same book in 1964 featuring Vincent Price was titled, “The Last Man on Earth.”
In novel form only, at the moment, is a three-book series by S.M. Stirling titled, “Dies the Fire,” which posits the death of all technology and a world that has reverted to medieval times. It’s not as if no one is left; but the remnants of civilization have retreated to rural clans and fiefdoms.
Now comes “Afterworld,” an animated series in which technology has inexplicably disappeared, as have most of the people. What makes this a Web 2.0 version of the tale is that it is available simultaneously on TV (SciFi Channel in the US), on the Web (eps are available at You Tube and on SciFi’s MySpace page Telstra’s Next G mobile phone network.
A good story about the concept behind the series talks about how “Afterworld” producer Stan Rogow turned to his 13-year-old son Jackson for guidance:
“Jackson and his friends were increasingly shunning broadcast TV in favour of other mediums like the Internet, so when he was looking for his next project, Rogow knew he had to do something different.”
So, he decided to put it out in different media and to keep each of the 130 episodes about three minutes.
There are seven lessons in this:
1. This is an experiment. So far, there has been a strong response on YouTube, with each of the early episodes drawing thousands of viewers, user responses and the like. But 46,000 viewers is pathetic for a film or TV show. So, it’s still a relatively small audience.
2. YouTube isn’t just for amateur videos anymore. This project continues the trend of Hollywood moving onto the web. Why? Because that’s where the audiences are. Back in February, Sony Pictures Television International signed an exclusive agreement to acquire all international television, Internet, digital sell-through, gaming and mobile rights to Afterworld.
3. Short attention-span theater in an fragmented, ADD world. But is there really anything new in that? The first movies were short; “one-reel” cliffhangers kept people’s interest until the next episode. Charles Dickens novels came out in weekly supplements in London in the 1800s. Keep ’em coming back for more. In fact, full-length feature will soon be the exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself.
4. Broadband video is also beginning to rule the web. SciFi.com is making classic SciFi and horror films available on its broadband channel, too.
5. People don’t want to be tied to TV schedules and will watch when and how they want.
6. Not everything works, though. Afterworld was originally optioned by Bud.TV. But (a) I couldn’t get the eps to play on Bud.TV, and (b) no one is watching Bud.TV. The same ep that had 46,438 views of YouTube had only 1,406 on Bud.TV. (Is it even updated anymore?).
7. The good stuff still looks better on a big screen. We will watch “Afterworld’s” YouTube eps on our Plasmas and LCD’s given the opportunity – just when we want to.