To tell the story of Canadian high-rise residents reinventing their homes in the sky, the makers of new film One Millionth Towerreinvented the documentary format.
“We’ve added an entire new layer to the web and One Millionth Tower is one of the first examples of that,” said Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, the force behind the Popcorn.js toolkit that powers the film. “In the same way we all got really excited when you could highlight a word on a page and create a hyperlink … that’s happening now with film. I think of this as the first real web-made documentary.”
The resulting film is unlike any before it. It can be watched without much interaction, but it’s much more fun to play with it (see “How to Watch This Movie” at right). Some aspects change even without viewer input: For instance, the time of day and weather in the film change based on actual conditions in Toronto.
One Millionth Tower, which is premiering on Wired.com the same day it premieres at the Mozilla Festival in London, is not just a static story recorded on film and then edited together for audiences. It exists in a 3-D setting made possible by a tool called three.js, which lets viewers walk around the high-rise neighborhood. Moving through allows viewers to see the current state of urban decay, then activate elements to show ways the residents would change their world, like an animation showing where a new playground or garden would go.
The interactive movie is chock-full of photos from Flickr, street-views from Google Maps and changing environments fueled by real-time weather data from Yahoo. Everything is triggered by Popcorn.js, which acts like a conductor signaling which instruments play at what times.
There is also a description of some of the backend technology here: