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Interactive Documentary Archive

Welcome to Pine Point

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By: Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons, produced by the NFBC
Project type: Web


Welcome to Pine Point was meant to be a book… it is now becoming a cross-platform project… and an interactive documentary produced by the NFB of Canada.

This interactive documentary tells the story of a city that has been totally destroyed in the last ten years. Although the documentary is fundamentally linear (you can only press the next/previous tab and click on some photos) the quality of the narrative, and of the combination between graphics and video, is outstanding! A real piece of craft work… and maybe a good example of Lev Manovich’s “deep remixability” applied to the new media documentary world.

Here is how the project is described in its Press Release:

Toronto, January 26, 2011 – Imagine your hometown never changed. That no one ever grew old or moved on. Part book, part film, part family photo album, Welcome to Pine Point unearths a place frozen in time and discovers what happens when an entire community is erased from the map.

Welcome to Pine Point is the first online interactive documentary from internationally renowned Vancouver-based creative team The Goggles (Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons), produced in collaboration with the NFB’s director of digital content and strategy, Rob McLaughlin. Inspired by Simons’ childhood visit to a mining town in the Northwest Territories, Welcome to Pine Point is accessible through NFB Interactive, the NFB’s online portal, which showcases an evolving collection of innovative, interactive stories exploring the world—and our place in it—from uniquely Canadian points of view.

Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons are award-winning authors, artists and creative directors. They have spent most of their professional lives telling stories in compelling new ways, creating unique books, magazines and television spots. They are most known for their award-winning work with Adbusters Magazine.

Find out more:

Watch Pinepoint online

My comments:

For me Welcome to Pine Point is both a success, and a disappointment. The story is strong, hence one wants to watch it all, the graphics are very beautiful, it is sticky and playful. Basically: it works! This should be enough no?

Well… the only problem with it is that it is fundamentally linear… so… what does it say about interactive documentaries? Does it confirm to us that linear narrative is the best way to communicate stories, or does it just prove that linear is easier to do? I obviously think that interactive narratives are possible… so that is where my disappointment comes from: Pine Point was meant to be a book… and I think you can tell. There are elements of interactivity in it, but that is not its strength. Its strength is a grabbing story, fantastic use of graphics and animation, and a good music track… it sits on the web, but does not use its interactive possibilities at its full.

Still worth watching it though…

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

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  1. On April 4th, 2011 at 12:01 Arnau wrote:

    “Welcome to Pinepoint” and the control over the authorship on I-Docs production
    by Arnau Gifreu Castells

    In relation to the post of Sandra Gaudenzi: Welcome to Pinepoint (February 2, 2011,, which shows the project “Welcome to Pinepoint (Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simmons, NFB, 2011) and debate about the control over the authorship in interactive applications, I personally do not think you’re simplifying things too much, since the level of control exercised over narration is one of the key aspects that differentiate the traditional documentary from the interactive documentary.

    Personally I saw the projections “Welcome to Pinepoint” (Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simmons, NFB, 2011) and Out my window (Katerina Cizek, NFB – Highrise) ( at the IDFA Doclab 2010 ( and I want to explain my feelings: on the one hand, seeing Pinepoint was like watching a linear documentary (the authors only were activating each bracketing manually, but it gave me the impression that it was a traditional documentary in a linear way, if not for the pictures or text which showed interactively).
    On the other hand, Out my window was an amazing experience, as it was the first time I was led by a person, but also seemed to be watching an audiovisual documentary, but part of it because I knew then I’ll have the option of building back my own documentary in home again. That’s the big difference in author control: while Pinepoint lets you limited interaction, although the theme works perfectly and it would be considered as an art work of ” audiovisual collage “, Out my window offers you a free itinerary and much more freedom, and therefore less control by the author of the work.

    They were both very interesting, and an amazing and enriching experience, but I must say one last thing about authorship: when we aren’t led, as the case of Out my window, sometimes I feel a little lost and do not see the clear, logic and coherent connection between speech and narration, that happens in a linear documentary.

    The concepts of choice and control were considered property of the documentary director. When this power is delivered to the user, such as in the interactive media, the role of author and narrator changes, and, consequently, the personal point of view of the story is challenged or removed. In traditional documentaries, the ability to influence the audience by the author is assumed, and is exercised through the film and on the discourse that is articulated from the editing and assembly. But what happens when the viewer is no longer just a spectator, but becomes a creator of their documentary experience?
    The first characteristic that defines the two properties is evident: in the first case, the traditional documentary presents a linear approach: going from a starting point to end point (from A to B) and follows a predetermined route defined by the author of the work. The boundaries of authorship and control over the speech are perfectly defined. In the second case, we enter a starting point proposed by the author (or we can choose), and we are finding alternative ways to choose and follow the path we normally would follow. The final decision does not, as in the first case, belong to the director of the play, but the interactor. Therefore, not talking about a single speech, but about different displays and, by extension, different possible stories. As seen in the latter case, the boundaries of authorship and control over the speech lose weight.
    In sum, the key element that differentiates the interactive audiovisual field is obvious: traditional narrative includes a linear and cannot alter the order of discourse, while the interactive environment can affect the order and change it. As discussed Berenguer (2004), there are “reactive behaviors in automation, there are behaviors engaged in certain works of communication and expression, but, according to this definition, neither can be considered interactive behaviors.”
    Thus, documentaries can find linear reactive components (activated from the control of the DVD, as do scenes, subtitles, extras, etc..), while the non-linear interactive documentary components are interactive: one must understand the system and make decisions to move forward. In the first case the type of interaction is weak, while in the the second is medium or high (in the case of linear documentary, just by pressing the DVD or play with your mouse and see the film, while in the interactive case have to perform different actions for different purposes: to link to the application, choose language and mode of navigation and interaction, knowing the system, progress on each branch that comes our way, actions related to the interaction and interface, and especially trace, step by step, the application, or actions related to the interaction with the content or other interactors).
    The biggest difference (and conflict) between the objectives of the traditional documentary and objectives of the interactive documentary is in the field of authorship and control over the narrative. The traditional documentary is used to indicate a point of view (the documentary), but the interactive documentary has the potential to indicate many. In summary, adding interactivity is losing control over the meaning of the film, and for many filmmakers, this is simply not their goal. The authorship is an inherent objective of traditional documentary and, therefore, is resistant to the consolidation of the interactive media and how to build the discourse. But that does not mean at all that the filmmakers did not use the network as a platform. By contrast, the documentaries are finding this platform for distribution in a time when the industry is saturated, due to stiff competition among companies and among librarians.
    Without the prospect of a good interactive experience, you may wonder why it has to interact with it. In short, without a specific narrative perspective or experience, the user may get bored or lose interest whether the film is interactive or not.

    PINEPOINT (NFB, 2011):
    OUT MY WINDOW (NFB, 2011):
    IDFA DOCLAB 2010:

  2. On November 11th, 2016 at 22:52 Teresa Azevedo wrote:

    Love to see more pics of the late 60s to 1980…..

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