Waterlife is an award-winning documentary by Kevin McMahon about the pollutants threatening the health of the Great Lakes. Earlier this year, the National Film Board of Canada approached web development and design company Jam3 to bring that story to life online. Jam3′s creative directors Adrian Belina and Pablo Vio spoke to realscreen about learning more about water, and getting in-depth with this project.
It took about four months after initial discussions to flesh out the concept and develop the site, which uses 23 individual sections to give insight to the different aspects of the Great Lakes’ situation (which are broken down into ‘Water is …’ sections).
Belina and Vio worked alongside the NFB on the content, and were able to cull from the music, visuals and the five years of research that went into making the film. According to Vio, the NFB gave Jam3 very few guidelines, as long as the end result was a truly vivid experience.
‘I believe the NFB’s goal was to attract more than just your typical documentary watchers,’ says Belina. ‘They wanted to expand their audience and also attract a digital audience as well.’
The site has visual appeal in spades, with a mosaic intro and clips from the film that appear in some of the 23 individual sections. The amount of content on the site is enormous, and is divided up to highlight key lessons from the film.
‘The 23 sections of the site each have individual functionality from a programming standpoint,’ explains Vio. ‘As much as the sections look the same, there were unique aspects to some that were created in animation and the code that was applied to certain sections.’
Belina adds that since there were different loops of the film, graphics and content, they split the content into different types of loads. ‘The original type of load was for the initial experience, the mosaic view and the timeline animation. Then, as you get into the different media buckets, those get individually loaded,’ he says. ‘When those are loaded, we split up the content with about four or five different screens. Some buckets had different screens. We dispersed the content so people weren’t reading some sort of long essay like piece.’
The site launched in May and has content that appeals to all sorts of users. Belina says environmentalists and non-environmentalists alike are coming to the site, as are fans of the documentary, people who like the Flash aspect and technicality of the site, and the average user.