This one comes as Webisodes, which is rapidly becoming the norm as the various flavors of multimedia converge. And some of the folks involved have had a hand in blurring the lines between the various media delivery types for previous shows, like the narrator Amanda Tapping who launched the first episode of Sanctuary online, with the numbers of viewers convincing Sci-Fi to spring for an actual season of the show. So now the Steampunk story of Riese: Kingdom Falling can be enjoyed online, and again there is a good chance the numbers will determine whether the program makes the jump to regularly produced series. Another example of this style of programming launches its web site today; The Minds Eye Series also has a lot to offer. That one is Fantasy rather then Steampunk, but both of these shows bypass typical Big Media companies (at least the worst aspects of them) and bring their stories straight to the audience to see if they can win a big enough share to survive as a series.
I had to grin when I noticed an actor or two as well as some of the production staff was coming from the Sanctuary team as well, and those who were not were equally professional. They are not the first group to do this style of Pilot creation, but they have had more success at it than most. The principle here is to do two contradictory things, and do both of them so well that you create an audience for the show that makes the network eager to add it to their lineup. First, you must create an episode so compelling, and a cast of characters so interesting and engaging, that the audience cannot wait to see what happens next. Second, you must do it while spending as close to no money as possible while having the highest production values.
One of the tricks that actually allows you to accomplish both of these goals is to only shoot the action scenes with the least amount of FX, substituting narration for the bits you don’t have the budget to film. This allows you to concentrate what budget you do have into costumes, props, background, cinematography, and the other details that show the quality of the finished product you intend to achieve. The narration segments must move the story forward with whatever visual footage can be put together that infers, rather than shows, the events being described. This technique has previously been used to bridge missing segments in archival footage (like many Doctor Who stories from the 60s and 70s), but now folks have figured out it can be used to present new offerings as well in an effective manor.
I do appreciate that this is the first actively SteamPunk TV program I have run across so far, and I intend to support it. There are SteamPunk precursor programs, like Legend, Brisco County Junior, or Wild Wild West, each of which took place in the right era and depended on scientific development (and sometimes SuperScience) in order to resolve their plotlines. But this is the first time I have watched video that had many of the protagonists wearing brass goggles with leather clothing of a distinctly SteamPunk flavor, and I am seriously looking forward to more episodes of this series.