Buildings, Production Values, Run High In New York Times’ Interactive Doc On High-Rises

Interactive technology seems to be used most often in music videos and art projects. While these are mostly entertaining, it still feels as though an opportunity is being squandered to use similar techniques for more educational videos–you know, to make them feel less… educational. Thankfully, the New York Times seems to feel the same way.

The latest edition of the venerable newspaper’s Op-Docs series finds the Gray Lady teaming up with digital content hub National Film Board of Canada for an incisive look at a New York institution, the high-rise. A Short History of the Highrise debuted at the New York Film Festival and is now available on the Times’ website. The series is also optimized for viewing on tablets–an NFB specialty. The online version boasts an interactive element that the folks who only saw the film at the festival missed out on.

Each of the videos is an immersive experience that viewers can navigate using touch commands like swipe, pinch, pull and tap. By clicking down at the bottom screen any time, you can pause the film and explore whatever is being discussed at the moment. These little divergences include extra factoids about related subject matter, presented in interactive click-and-drag fashion.

The four parts (“Mud,” “Concrete” and “Glass”, and “Home”) unfold with still photographs that have moving elements in nearly every frame, like a cloud of smoke wafting by a stationary group of people. Most of the photographs come from the NYT’s archives (known as the Morgue), while the ones comprising the fourth segment (“Home”) were user-submitted. Directed by documentarian Katerina Cizek, and narrated by musician Feist, the series is a part of the NFB’s Emmy-winning HIGHRISE project.

Watch two of the videos below.