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Interactive Annual 17:
entertainment

The NFB Test Tube with David Suzuki

Launch Live Site

“A new type of cinematography—documentary with interactivity as an editing experience.”
— Véronique Brossier

“Leverages the interactive medium to reveal connections and relationships that would be difficult to demonstrate in traditional media.”
—Jill Nussbaum


Overview: Combining user input, interactive video of Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki and live data from Twitter, this site is an interactive parable about society’s insatiable appetites, the fallacy of growth and the things that can and cannot be changed. Delivered online and on mobile devices, it presents a social experiment that demonstrates how all seven billion people in the world are connected by a simple mathematical reality. After the audience responds to the question, “If you could find an extra minute right now, what would you do?” David Suzuki delivers a video story while surrounded by dynamic floating bacteria—seemingly random objects that are actually related to visitor input (a mouse click on them opens up additional layers of content).

  • • The site pulls data live from Twitter so the experience is never the same twice and built-in calls to action encourage questions and dialogue to continue across social networks.
  • • The topic of this project was something relatively new for us to be exploring in design. All of us are passionate about the environment so to be able to take a step back from commercial work and find creative and visual solutions for an important topic, was quite a breath of fresh air (was that a pun?).
  • • The site received 40,000 visitors and 22,000 content submissions in the first two weeks, as well as over 1,000 tweets and 20,000 referrals from Facebook.interactive.nfb.ca/#/testtube.

Comments by The Vacuum Design

Was the topic/subject of the project a new one for you? “The topic of this project was something relatively new for us to be exploring in design. All of us are passionate about the environment so to be able to take a step back from commercial work and find creative and visual solutions for an important topic, was quite a breath of fresh air (was that a pun?).”

How did the content determine the design concept? “Scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki, using the analogy of a common lab experiment, tells a parable that illustrates the concept of exponential growth. But before he begins, the audience is asked a simple question: If you had an extra minute what would you do? After an answer is submitted, Suzuki begins to deliver his parable while the screen fills with dynamic floating ‘bacteria’ each representing a real-time tweet that directly relates to the visitor-submitted answer. The rapid interconnectedness with other people around the globe through tweets underscores Suzuki’s analogy. The site visualizes all of the thousands of responses entered into it, for another layer of meaning about the things we do and consume. In the end, the project demonstrates that—despite beliefs that we’re all unique and special—we’re not alone in the choices we make. We’re all connected, and it’s up to us collectively to figure out the best way to live.”

What was the greatest technical challenge? “Drawing and animating hundreds of objects (the tweets) on-screen without completely destroying the performance of the piece. We had to be very careful about how we constructed those objects to keep performance overhead low. With the video playing such an important role in the experience, we needed to figure out ways to keep everything running smoothly.”

Credits

National Film Board of Canada (Vancouver, Canada), producer
The Vacuum Design, project design and development


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