Sea to Sea: Enhancing rail passenger experiences through immersive storytelling
IOU is a performing arts organisation based in Halifax with over 40 years of experience in making live shows and contemporary art installations. Through a collaboration with Anti Limited (a visual consultancy), Leeds Beckett University and Northern Rail, IOU developed a narrative concept called Sea to Sea to explore an immersive audio-visual experience using geographically located digital storytelling.
The project developed audio stories and immersive video to enhance the passenger experience of Northern Rail journeys from Scarborough to Blackpool and back again. The train route formed the basis of the storyline and an app was developed that played sections of pre-recorded stories about specific locations, performed by local writer Jemima Foxtrot. An important part of the research was the design, engineering and testing of a 360° camera rig which was attached to the front of trains used on regular service routes to help understand how the app could work when trains moved at high and variable speeds through tunnels, land and cityscapes.
Audiences engaged with Sea to Sea via their smartphones on train journeys across the North of England. They were also able to access a 360 VR broadcast experience with video and audio capture as an online experience.
Joanne Wain, executive director and industry partner on this project, says:
“Sea to Sea is an innovative experience that blends storytelling, creative writing and live events with film, audio and smartphone technology. Through the R&D project we were able to test the prototype concept, including how to trigger and play the audio at the exact moment a listener passes the relevant location. Creating a clear connection between what we are hearing through the app, and what we are seeing through the window of the railway carriage was crucial to enhancing the storytelling experience.
We hope to build on this further by developing the full-length Sea to Sea experience, which will feature rich and diverse multi-layered stories throughout the full duration of the rail journey.”