HBO launches Soderbergh's choose-the-order storytelling app and show Mosaic

Josh Constine

What if a mystery TV series let you decide to follow one character's story to the end, or jump between characters as the action unfolds? That's the idea behind Mosaic, a 3-year, $20 million project by the acclaimed director of Traffic and Ocean's 11, Steven Soderbergh. Today, HBO launches the Mosaic app for iOS and Apple TV that allows viewers to decide the viewing order of a 7.5-hour mystery mini series of the same name starring Sharon Stone. Soderbergh has two more made-for-Mosaic series on the way, and plans to open up the platform to other filmmakers.

"The outcome and the events of the story don't change based on your choices" says Soderbergh who avoided making Mosaic an overly-complicated video game. "It's merely what information do you have about the story based on what you've been following.' Some people like to just keep making choices and get to the end of a path, some people like to minesweep" jumping between separate characters in chronological order.

On January 22nd, HBO will air a 6-hour linear cut of the Mosaic series that follows how two men interweave themselves with author Olivia Lake, played by Stone. But on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and soon Android devices and the web, users can explore the story at their own pace. The branching narrative lets you choose which scenes to watch when. And along the way, you unlock appendices call Discoveries that let you watch extra clips and look at documents to dive deeper into a part of the story beyond the central story arch.

HBO bankrolled the Mosaic app's development by tech company PodOp as part of producing the series. PodOp filed 14 patents during the process, and built storyboard management and analytics tools to help Soderbergh craft the winding tale and see how audiences respond.

Soderbergh says "I looked at this as sort of an open source format that other fimmakesrs can come in and push." Beyond the next two Mosaic titles he's making, it's unclear if other creators will launch their own separate apps based on the Mosaic tech, or if today's app will become a hub for viewing or even buying this branching narrative content.

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