Set up by an Israeli rock star, a new venture is promising to bring the innovative world of interactive videos to music and advertising industries.
Yoni Bloch didn’t intend to become a rock star. A self-professed “geek” from the northern Negev town of Beersheva, Bloch loved playing both video games and music. One day, he thought it would be cool to release some of his tunes via the Internet. Before long, his band, with its edgy guitar pop, had hit the big time and Bloch became the darling of the Israeli alternative music scene.
Marrying his musical and geeky sides in a highly innovative, interactive way, Bloch has now moved into a new field, founding Interlude with two of his band mates (one who doubles as an electrical engineer, the other a hotshot programmer/designer).
Their web-based authoring system can mash up different video cuts into a seamless stream where the viewer gets to choose the action. If that sounds complex, it only takes a minute to get the hang of the end result.
Bloch has posted two of Interlude’s interactive videos online. The first, available on his personal website, is his composition about a singer wandering through a Tel Aviv house party. At various points, the viewer is presented with two choices – for example, should the band play an acoustic or electric set? The action then proceeds down the path selected.
The result is a four-minute clip that has tens of combinations. At the end, you’re prompted to see it again or start anew. The technology is compelling enough that you may very well find yourself sucked in for another round.
What should Andy do?
The Interlude website features a clip of Andy Grammer, a relatively unknown pop musician. The process is the same – should Andy dance with the waiters or hang with the cleaning staff in the hotel lobby? And what are the ramifications of choosing the black vs. the red t-shirt?
To emphasize the geek factor even further, the video features a cameo by Rainn Wilson, who plays uber-nerd Dwayne on the US version of TV series The Office.
Interlude also created an interactive video for the Israeli version of American Idol where the final contestants were all filmed singing the same song and the audience got to choose the winner.
Interlude’s technology is similar to that of Turbulence, the company founded by a Tel Aviv University professor that lets the viewer guide a movie’s plot. But Turbulence is focused on creating fully interactive movies, while Bloch has his eyes on a more commercial prize: the next generation of online advertising.
Interactive videos could boost ad revenue
Interlude has already signed two big-name clients – Old Navy and Nokia. Bloch explains the value potential: “Imagine in an Old Navy commercial, a woman can choose from several different outfits. First of all, it’s good advertising, but it also provides valuable data – Old Navy gets to see which clothes get chosen more often.”
Interlude has found that viewers spend up to triple the amount of time playing with one of the company’s interactive videos compared with an ordinary YouTube upload – a critical factor in an increasingly competitive online environment.
Accordingly, Interlude’s business model revolves around licensing its technology to media companies and ad agencies, rather than providing a toolkit for “the rest of us,” although Bloch promises that will come eventually.
In addition to the band members, Interlude has a team of 10 working in Tel Aviv. The company has won critical acclaim both in major worldwide media (MTV asked: “Has the future of the music video arrived?”) as well as in international competitions. Interlude won first place at events sponsored by Techonomy, NY Video and TechAvivTEXT.
Bloch is lining up initial funding; he was in New York meeting with investors when ISRAEL21c spoke with him. “So far, the company has been entirely bootstrapped,” he says. For now, he is more focused on looking for interesting content than in generating huge revenues.
A new way of storytelling
Creating an interactive video with Interlude’s authoring system is not as hard as you’d think. Bloch’s music video was filmed in a single night. You just need to script it very tightly, so the cuts make sense. The technology handles the rest.
“It’s a platform for a new way of storytelling,” Bloch says. “It’s very creative and artistic. We really see it as a new medium.”
Bloch has come a long way from the Beersheva teenager who used to upload music to New Stage, a sort of Israeli MySpace.
“My father was a physicist so we had Internet access all the way back in 1992,” Bloch tells ISRAEL21c. “His exposure online ultimately led to a record deal with the Israeli label NMC.
Despite his new business responsibilities, Bloch continues to play music; the fundraising trip to New York also allowed the band to pick up a few gigs. How does he manage to divide his time between being a rock star and a high-tech CEO? “I just sleep less,” he admits.