First launched in 2020, Stornaway.io is a production tool that aims to enable producers to create and deliver interactive films and TV series without the need for coding.
The tool’s player is built with open standards, and content can be published on Stornaway’s own platform or exported to other systems.
Fast forward two years and the company recently received a grant to create what it describes as a radically new type of video editing software, designed for the next generation of interactive and immersive video stories and games.
TVBEurope caught up with co-founder and creative director Kate Dimbleby to find out how the company has navigated the past few years, and its plans for the new editing software.
Kate, we first talked about Stornaway in 2020, how has the company developed since then?
That’s a big question! When we last spoke, we were beta-testing with TV and film production companies, theatres and gamemakers to perfect an interactive film workflow. As we launched properly in 2021, we were discovered by thousands of people wanting to make video more exciting in lots of different industries around the world.
We knew that this was our eventual aim but the pandemic really escalated that because of the way that video was adopted in so many different ways.
How did you navigate the pandemic?
Before the pandemic, Netflix were increasing investment in interactive entertainment and all the other platforms were figuring out what would be possible. When lockdown hit, the huge rise in demand for linear content across platforms meant that this kind of innovation took a backseat for a while. Luckily for us, the trends everywhere else outside of TV were not just for more video use but also to increase interactivity, personalisation and gamification. TV remains a bit slower in this area because of its existing infrastructure constraints but you can see from what’s happening at places like Peacock that they are now catching up with interactive content.
What’s been your biggest achievement over the past couple of years?
In terms of the people using Stornaway, it’s been amazing to enable small independent filmmakers like Aviary Films to release The Gallery (pictured) on consoles, apps and in cinemas, saving money and time, retaining full ownership and selling directly to their audiences. At the same time, we are being used for campaigns by huge international names like Deutsche Telekom, Diageo and the UN but probably our happiest achievement is that everyone always says they love using Stornaway.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
As a small company with an ambitious vision, there is quite a lot of cultural pressure in the start-up industry to take investment and grow inorganically. But we’re really proud of staying lean and independent and winning hard-to-get grant funding to dream up the future of video without needing to work to anybody else’s agenda.
You’ve just been awarded a SMART grant to develop what you describe as a radically new type of video editing software – are you preparing to take on the likes of Avid and Adobe?
My co-CEO Ru Howe’s background is in broadcast post production workflow and he’s built the whole product vision on interoperability and integration with best in class tools like Adobe and Unity. So, no, we’re not so much trying to take them on, as we are standing on their shoulders to build the future of video production.
It’s obvious to us that video and games are converging rapidly but none of the existing vendors have any helpful solutions for this. Making any kind of game or interactive experience using video is way too complicated and expensive for the vast majority of people who don’t know how to code in Unity and Unreal.
Tell me more about the software
The first version of Stornaway.io that people are using right now lets non-technical producers create interactive and immersive stories for the web, apps, consoles, YouTube, VR and cinema without coding.
What we are building in this next phase, funded by Innovate UK, is a much more fully featured interactive video editor and game engine, letting producers visually design, edit and deliver interactive journeys through all kinds of media. And it’ll be built on an Object Based Media model to allow for interoperability with TV streaming platforms and broadcast production tools.
Who are you aiming it at?
Our aim is to properly ‘democratise’ this type of content creation. So it’s aimed at all the people who would currently use, for example, the Adobe toolset – from their high-end After Effects and Premiere power users to non-experts using web-based tools like Adobe Express and Canva. Making game-like experiences with video should be as easy as it is to make linear video now but should also have the advanced features required for high-end workflows.
When will it go to market?
You can sign up to use Stornaway for free now at our website www.stornaway.io and see the range of story games already being made. We’ll be releasing new features incrementally over the course of this next phase so tick the box to stay in touch when you sign up for a trial and we’ll let you know.