Well, with the choices made, Netflix software detects an option and loads the corresponding clip. The challenge in this kind of product is to ensure continuity between clips, but if these were loaded in real-time, there would always be a short flicker between transitions.
Netflix solves the problem with two tricks, the first is to give 10 seconds to make a choice. The quicker the user makes a decision, the more time the software has to pre-load the next clip. The proof is the fact that, once you make up your mind, you no longer have the possibility to change it.
And if the selection is made at the very last second of the ten available? Here comes a trick borrowed from the world of video games: the current clip is designed to last a couple of seconds after the user selection. This way, the software still has the time to pre-load the first few seconds of the next clip.
The producers have built the film using Twine, it is an open-source project dedicated to the design of non-linear stories, obtaining the creation of a multitude of branches and different paths, all this lets you develop endless stories via flowcharts. Only this way it was possible to manage a total of more than 250 video clips.
The technology may seem simple: buffering techniques, using flowcharts, all solutions already used in other media, but it is undeniable that the latest episode of Black Mirror represents a turning point in its specific field.
A common query is how it was possible to commit certain indiscretions. The first is the inability to manage the temporal flow of your story. In fact, once you move to the next clip, you can return only at the beginning of it, not even to the previous one.
Which leads thinking that Bandersnatch takes into account just instant choices and not the narrative flow of each viewer. By restarting from the beginning the episode all the previous decisions are erased.
An easy solution would have been to run a small text file that would have recorded the preferences at the various crossroads.
The second it is in the crossroads control. The golden rule of the most famous adventure games is that there are no wrong choices. In Bandersnatch, however, they do exist. It is frustrating.
For example, the main character is faced with the choice of working in the company offices or at home, choosing one of the two options here leads to Ritman whispering into your ears ‘Wrong path’. And then you’ll start again to the point of the selection.
Here the problem is not technical, but merely writing. Probably the two choices of this junction assumed the production of too many new clips, so a ploy has been found to repurpose the selection until the viewer makes the ‘right’ choice, but you understand it is a minimal mechanism.
Indeed, Bandersnatch is the catalyst, which sets the foundations for the evolution of more complex projects.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash