“This is a serene, simple, visually arresting and meditative experience. Well designed, well written and shot the way only National Geographic knows how to do.” —juror Winston Binch
“A stunning portrayal of nature in a highly cinematic and original format.” —juror Tali Krakowsky
Overview: National Geographic photographer and editor-at-large Michael “Nick” Nichols and videographer Nathan Williamson spent twelve months living with a pride of lions on the plains of Tanzania, filming every aspect of the animals’ lives. Cameras mounted on small robotic vehicles brought back footage of life among the big cats that no human could capture. The resulting website project, The Serengeti Lion: Life on the Plains with the Vumbi Pride, brings readers directly into the life of the pride as its members play, hunt, mate and defend their territory.
• During their time in the field, Nichols shot 242,000 images and Williamson recorded 200 hours of film.
• A total of 22 ambient behavioral videos, 74 photos and 17 clips of audio commentary from field experts and the photographers are arranged into 24 thematic content channels.
• More than half of the site’s users during its first month online were first-time visitors to the National Geographic website.
Comments by National Geographic:
What are the project’s core features? “Ambient video, intimate photographs and atmospheric audio provide the visitor with a series of immersive, unfiltered glimpses into the everyday life of the Vumbi pride. Audio commentary from ecologist Craig Packer—who has led the Serengeti Lion Project since 1978, making it one of the longest continuous field studies of any species—provides additional information about lion behavior. Further segments highlight what it truly means for people to live alongside lions.”
What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “Orchestrating the photographic coverage necessary to give the audience a truly immersive sense of life in a lion pride. To provide close-up and intimate views in a non-intrusive manner, the coverage team worked with photographic engineers and technical specialists to develop a number of innovative solutions, which included a small robotic ‘mini-tank’ armed with still and video cameras, a camera-equipped MicroKopter to gather aerial views of the pride and mounted infrared lights that allowed Nichols and Williamson to document nocturnal behaviors without disturbing the lions.”
What was the thinking behind the navigation? “Each time a visitor arrives at the site, the 24 thematic channels randomly arrange themselves. This randomization is meant to convey the unpredictability of the pride’s daily experience. We also included an index for visitors wishing to go directly to a particular piece of content. Navigational icons are designed to be minimal, allowing the visual content to dominate the presentation so visitors can truly immerse themselves in the world of the Vumbi pride.”