webpick of the week
Creating the web experience to accompany Gravity, one of the most visually innovative films in recent memory, is a bit more of a challenge than the usual movie site. Award-winning production company B-Reel developed this innovative complement to the film in just ten weeks. True, they had the good fortune to have access to the same 3-D models used in the film, but this also proved to be a bit of a curse: It was a serious challenge to translate the millions upon millions of polygons in those models to make them usable in a web browser. And without access to the proprietary rendering system used by the filmmakers, B-Reel had to manually prepare the models for WebGL, a time- and resource-intensive process. But B-Reel was determined to push technological boundaries, using HTML5 to its fullest capacity with WebGL, WebAudio, CSS3D, Canvas and a bit of WebRTC, plus Maya by Autodesk to optimize 3-D meshes and create the most beautiful possible textures.
Because the biggest creative accomplishments of the site are technical, the real beauty of the experience is what you don’t see. The profoundly realistic look and feel of the web experience isn’t marred by glitchy performance or tedious load times. Clean, functional design keeps the focus on the imagery, while sound design and cinematic camerawork recreate the film’s visceral sense of panic and awe. The website is purposefully minimal in terms of “things to do,” because really, there’s not much gratuitous entertainment in outer space. B-Reel did, however, create the Helmet Cam, which allows users to take photos of what they see as they explore the site. It’s a cool and clever tool that helps promote the film as people share photos of their personal space-view with their friends. Just remember—no selfies on your space walk.