Yesterday it was announced that the travel show I created, High&Low, would be part of the line up for the new streaming service Quibi on its launch. When I tell people this, there is usually two reactions, either, “wow, how did you manage that” or “what the hell is Quibi”. One answer fortunately applies to both.
First, what the hell is Quibi? It’s is a streaming service helmed by Jeffrey Katzenberg, founder and CEO of Dreamworks and one of the masterminds behind Disney’s golden age in the early ‘90s. While it’s like your basic Netflix or Hulu, it’s nothing like them at all, as programs on this network are all under 10 minutes and under at a time. This however is not what makes Quibi so different.
Quibi has a bit of a magic trick…
Quibi can only be watched on your phone, and is meant for you to watch during the day in “QUIck BItes”, like while commuting, waiting for your sandwich, or for something to render in my case. The reason you can only watch it on your phone is depending on which way you hold it, horizontal or vertically (Landscape or portrait), will actually change the camera shot in the show.
Yeah, it’s like choose your own adventure, but with TV.
It might be hard to wrap your head around what that could do for a show but it’s much more than a gimmick and really does give the audience a fresh new way to watch content. For creators like myself, it’s the things that dreams are made of.
Since the advent of streaming media to phones I’ve been asked countless time to create content in portrait mode, sometimes filming entire projects twice, for multiple formats. With Quibi, they’ve done some serious tech work under the hood to seamlessly have the ability to switch between viewing modes, which allows filmmakers to add context, meaning, and generally enhance how the story is told. Alex Craz of Gizmodo explains it best:
in Catherine Hardwicke’s new show, Don’t Look Deeper, the portrait mode version provides a much more intimate experience, with close-ups of the actors and a focus on expressions rather than actions. Flipping to landscape mode reveals more of the action and gives you that sense of scope you’ve come to expect from really wide shots.
This is just the beginning really, since flipping the phone can cut to whole other perspectives, like in a horror film seeing just security camera footage vs what the protagonist sees, or on cooking shows going from the wide shot of the stove to a list of ingredients or close up of techniques.
For me personally, I’ve been creating travel content for years, and have constantly wanted to take people deeper and further into experiences, to have them feel what it is like to be somewhere new rather than just show them. With this new format it is possible to have them truly interact with the content to let them decide how to explore a city or what to focus on. That’s a huge deal because it means the experience for the user will be that much richer.
It’s also a lot of fun. Travel shows can be pedantic and slow unless you’re into shoving weird food in your mouth or Richard Ayoade (love him). So this is an opportunity to get weird with it, to be unexpected, which is one of the main things that really turn me on about travelling in general. If I can bring that into the content it’s a win-win.
So now what? Well, on my end a lot of work, good work I hope, to try to push the limits with this new format and set the bar high for others that come on board. Quibi is aggressively fattening up their lineup with almost 200 new shows which is well beyond anything Apple or Disney+ launched with, so I’m sure I’ll be in good company, especially with icons like Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh creating original content for them. Gulp.
Fortunately for me, my show is about travel, which is something I don’t have to think twice about, and will star two fantastic women, who I have no doubt about. In the end this idea came out of real experience from being a traveller, and from a lot of help from friends and colleagues that had faith in what it was about, which is really just getting people excited to get out there and make the world a smaller, better place. Either horizontally or vertically.