“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….
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.
This documentary can never be the same on two viewings, no matter how carefully you try to retrace your steps, because the data it pulls in is always evolving. It doesn’t make great use of UGC, but it could, the principle is there. The data being pulled in is quite well integrated too.
So well done them, this may indeed represent a future direction for participatory documentary.