What we've done

This research involved us applying ethnographic methodologies to the environment of a live TV production for the first time.

Why it matters

Production is traditionally a highly pressurised environment that relies on a large team with specialised equipment and skills working together. Its workflows are complex and have been developed over decades of TV and film production.

While other technologies are developed to digitise production and streamline its workflows, making it more efficient, a gap remains between creative decisions made during filming, and those made during editing and post- production. Time constraints also mean that some crew members never see a storyboard or the scenes listed in narrative order, ie the order in which they will be seen on television rather than the order in which they are shot. Could we try and close that gap, and observe the impact on the team's collaboration and creativity?

That's where Storycrate came in. A large-scale tangible interface designed to sit in the middle of a set, it pulls in and displays the latest camera shots on a timeline like a video editor. Though it folds easily into a portable flight case, it would nevertheless create the level of disruption to a team's normal work patterns that we needed.

How it works

First Tom Bartindale, a PhD student we sponsor at Newcastle University's Culture Lab, developed and built the Storycrate prototype for us.

Once set up in the midst of a production, it pulls in rushes from the cameras as soon as they are filmed and displays them in a similar way to a video editor. Individual takes appear as thumbnails that can be dragged onto a timeline, or stacked vertically for comparison.

It is designed so that members of the crew use plastic tiles to manipulate the interface, and the size and tangibility of the resulting storyboard encourages the whole crew, whatever their role, to review the shots, suggest edits or different treatments.

We also worked with our Productions Lab, which specialises in setting up trial productions so we can conduct research without jeopardising the shoot of a real programme.

How we tested it

To observe the behaviour of a crew under normal circumstances, we set up three trial productions of an episode of a television drama. The first filmed a scene conventionally, with no storyboard available for the crew to consult. The second scene was filmed with a paper storyboard, and the third was filmed using Storycrate.

A team of ethnographers and observation camera operators recorded the actions of the crew on set, then interviewed them after the shoot about Storycrate and how they felt it affected their work patterns.


This research has not only informed ideas for other production tools, it has also developed our range of methodologies to assess real-life working patterns and how technology must be adapted to be usable.

With this knowledge, we continue to work on prototypes and interfaces that make production more creative and efficient.


  • Storycrate - A video of the Storycrate prototype made by our partners at Newcastle University


People & Partners

Project Team

Project Partners