Interactive video is a such a simple and obvious idea that it always surprises me we don't see more of it. In many ways, videos are already interactive and always have been. We hit stop when we want to stop and play when we want to play. We can mute the sound on pre-roll ads and only have to wait 30 seconds for the opportunity to "skip advertisement."
Yet only very rarely do our online video experiences embody the multimedia cornucopia we've been talking about since the days of the CD-ROM. Having spent some time exploring interactive video possibilities, I do have some insight as to why they are not more plentiful. Multimedia experiences fail most often due to a lack of insight in predicting which kind of media is best to convey information to a viewer. For the viewer or reader, it's often just simpler to just click play and sit back, or just read without all these weird interruptions. Which is why I was so excited when I watched (and read) a piece by award-winning NYTimes videographer Alexandra Garcia. Garcia has been making award-winning videos for the Times and The Washington Post for a number of years. But this piece, designed to showcase the Giant Slalom technique of ski racer Ted Ligety, did something more.
I'm calling it a video but it's really just a series of slides interwoven with video interludes. It explains something that would be difficult to do with video alone but impossible without it. The result is an experience that is seamless in the sense that the video seem to play just when you want it to and pause at the moment you need to digest what you've just been shown. When I first watched it, I hadn't realized it was interactive and found myself staring at words superimposed against a still image from the video. It took a moment longer to notice I was actually being given enough time to actually read all the words. When I finished reading I automatically clicked and another slide with words on it appeared. When I clicked after reading that one the video started up again.
It's a simple video, and aside from being beautifully shot, there's nothing mind-blowing about the technology being used. What makes it work is its precise and perfectly timed use of the right media to convey the information. It's perfectly timed not least because you as the viewer have some input. Not too much, just enough.