Skip to main content

The BBC wants to make movies that adapt to your interests

The BBC wants to make movies that adapt to your interests

Share this story

The BBC wants to make videos that change to suit whoever's watching. It's exploring the idea through a research project called Visual Perceptive Media, which has set up a way to alter everything from what's in a video to what a video sounds and looks like depending on a viewer's interests. It starts with a personality quiz: an app asks questions about whether you're shy or outgoing, lazy or hardworking, and a few other basic traits. It'll also analyze your music library or ask about your music tastes. Combining that information, it'll determine what group you fit into and serve you a different cut of the video you're about to watch.

Retaining interest comes at the expense of creative control

For its initial demo, the BBC's experiment can change the action in a scene, who a scene focuses on, or if a scene is even present at all. It can also change the color grading and music, potentially even altering the overall feel of a movie or scene. In its example, the BBC shows how a sequence can be altered to focus more heavily on a male or female character. It also shows how a room can be altered to look pleasant or dark and grungy. It's not particularly well done in the BBC's initial demo video, but it gets the point across.

The BBC is probably right that it could better retain viewer interest this way, though it presents other problems. For one, it becomes harder to tell a story as there's no longer a singular vision coming through, although the BBC would disagree. "This approach to storytelling does not remove the creative process of filmmaking," it says in a video. "Rather, it allows production teams to explore new modes of storytelling for diverse audiences." Nonetheless, the idea that a movie could add or adjust scenes could also bring out the worst in filmmaking, with sexual and degrading material left in for some audiences and taken out for others. Talking about a movie, too, would be a challenge.

For now this remains an experiment inside the BBC, although it's building a prototype for release to the public. The BBC imagines that this'll be used for online video, as it could easily serve up different streams. As for whether this idea is effective or not, the BBC doesn't really know yet — or, at least, it isn't saying. It's conducted "initial research" into how effective these adaptive videos are at holding attention, but it hasn't yet released the results.