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Interactive Documentary Archive

Capturing Reality: the Art of Documentary

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By: NFB Canada
Project type: Web


Capturing Reality is an incredible documentary about documentaries and film makers. Thirty world famous documentary makers were interviewed to give a flavour of a genre that is way too often unknown. The film was produced by the National Film Board of Canada and was directed by Pepita Ferrari.

But for me the cool thing is that out of this huge database of interviews and film clips the NFB has produced a website that is a very sleek web-documentary.Obviously I am only reviewing the web-documentary here, and I leave to you the joys of watching the feature film (or buy the DVD).

Find out more:

Browse the web-documentary Capturing Reality

Read about the linear documentary Capturing Reality

Buy the DVD of Capturing Reality

My comments:

The web-documentary of Capturing Reality starts with a nice mosaic interface that says straight away what the project is: a browse through interviews of well-know people. By roll-overing on the different portrait of the interviewees you discover their name and the topic of their grab. You then just need to click to select the grab you want to watch.

Once you are watching the grab, an algorithm calculates a play list for you of the other grabs that fit with the topic of the one that you have selected. I quite like the fact that by default the play list will just play, meaning that if you do not select anything the interviews will follow each other without asking you to “be active”. On the other hand you can always “do something” by moving to other topics, or by jumping to other grabs of the same character – the one on different topics.

The interface and the navigation do run very smoothly on this web-documentary – with the professional add-on of a background music that kicks in each time that you are outside of a grab. Everything is done so that you have a feeling of continuity… and the grabs are so breathtaking that it is difficult to switch off. This being said Capturing Reality has a very classic and sleek style: it is not trying to be innovative, nor trying to challenge the user. If what you want is just to concentrate on the interviews (which in this case are a great asset) then Capturing Reality makes it the best possible experience. If, on the contrary, you are looking for an experimental web-documentary about documentary film makers then… contact them and propose them another interface!!!

From my side I am interested on the repetition of the navigation options that are offered to quite a few web-documentaries (Capturing Reality, 6 billion people, Gaza/Sderot, Miami/Havana etc….): the database of interviews and videos are tagged by topic, character, place and sometime time. The user is therefore asked to choose between “do I care about this person, or about this topic”? And then – I suspect this comes as a second thought- the user has to choose between “what else happened in this place” and “what else happened in this time line”? I wonder if those choices are of the same sort… My guess is that the first choice is emotional (what attracs me) and the second one is more practical (how do I get to the next part, what else can I see). What puzzles me is: in how many other ways could we browse this archive of videos? Are there other logics, other paths, that would involve us in a different level than emotional and practical?

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 13th, 2009

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