BOULDER—Agent Garret is tailing a target in Madrid without support – against the better judgement of tech operative Auggie Anderson. Garret keeps pressing, and asks Anderson for directions.
Should Anderson tell Garret to stand down, or provide the information? You decide. This interactive video – released by USA Network as a prequel to its show Covert Affairs – is part Hollywood, part Choose Your Own Adventure paperback. The technology behind it, however, is built in Boulder by a company called Flixmaster.
"The web is so dynamic," says Basho Mosko of FlixMaster. "So why should video be locked into this rectangular box?"
Interactive video isn't new – Dragons Lair, an early example, launched in arcades back in 1983 and a few enterprising YouTube users hack that platform to be interactive using links.
FlixMaster, however, makes producing interactive videos simple: with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface alongside online video editing tools, FlixMaster means anyone can arrange videos into whatever order they like, allowing viewers to interact instead of just watching.
"Our goal is to make interactive video ubiquitous," says Mosko. And while old-fashioned, linear video is still the norm around the web, FlixMaster is helping a variety of companies keep people's attention.
One Kings Lane – a subscription-based seller of discount high-end home goods – recently created an interactive video about setting a table. Choices regarding style and technique are presented, and several table configurations are possible depending on those choices. Users are likely to keep watching, because they helped choose how the table is set. And One Kings Lane learns something about users' aesthetic preferences in the process.
An API even allows any site to allow users' choices to affect other things – for example, if you pick a certain plate in the table settings video you just might see it for sale later.
Another potential advantage of interactive video: engagement. "Most web viewers drop off within the first 45 seconds," says Basho. "If you provide them with a choice within that 45 second window it keeps them engaged."
In fact, according to Basho, many viewers end up going back to the beginning of FlixMaster videos. Like a kid paging through a Choose Your Own Adventure novel to find all of the endings, these viewers want to see every frame.
"A large portion of the viewers watch a second time," says Basho. "And that's the holy grail for online video. Instead of spending 45 seconds they're spending 45 minutes immersed in your brand."
Outside entertainment and e-commerce, FlixMaster is currently being tested for interactive tutorials, according to Mosko.
FlixMaster, a 2011 graduate of Boulder's TechStars, considers itself part of a thriving community.
"People in Boulder really look out for each other," says Basho.
FlixMaster, for its part, is allowing Fellow TechStars alumnus VerbalizeIt to build interactive training videos for their translators.
Want to see more examples of FlixMaster in action? Interactive comedy The Job Interview and mystery HUNCH are both worth checking out.
And those curious about the platform can create a free account at FlixMaster.com. There are limits to the number of viewers for free accounts, but you'll get an idea of what's possible quickly.