Before the cameras started rolling on a new Canadian doc series to catch massive humpback whales feeding off the coast of Newfoundland, grizzly bears living near the Arctic Circle, or pronghorn antelopes racing across the prairies, the interactive and documentary teams were already working with the filmmakers to plan the digital component.
Sadly for Jimmy Kimmel, Wild Canada isn’t a new reality show starring Rob Ford. It’s a four-part series to air in March that captures Canada’s awe-inspiring terrain and diverse species, showing animal behavior never before captured.
For the digital companion piece, the producers didn’t want to simply make an interactive version of the TV series, but a true extension of it. “The content and structure was mapped out from the very beginning so it’s almost like a fifth episode, with all exclusive material, framed in a different manner than the documentary, but heavily embedded in the same themes,” says CBC executive producer Fergus Heywood.
The app, built with Toronto-based agency Secret Location, includes HD video and photography from some of Canada’s most remote locations, 360-degree panoramas, immersive soundscapes, fly-throughs, interactive infographics, and other exclusive material not available anywhere else. Heywood says it’s like an interactive coffee table book.
“We worked closely with Secret Location to make the most of the medium, pushing the interactive and storytelling opportunities to provide viewers with a really high-value entertainment and educational experience,” he says. “This was a gigantic production, nearly two years in the making and with a lot of moving parts, but was an almost textbook case of integrated production being done right: the CBC Interactive team led production with the internal documentary unit, the filmmakers, and the developers all getting involved at the very beginning of the entire production process for the series.”
The opportunities in digital to extend and enhance storytelling are only limited to the producers imagination–and budget. “I hesitate to apply a cookie-cutter approach to any program when it comes to digital media–what you produce must first and foremost complement and extend the main program,” says Heywood. “The true benefit of working in this field is that there are virtually no limitations to format or approach with digital. If you have a deep understanding of what your program is, and who your audience is, you can create a unique and compelling experience around it.”
Wild Canada debuts on March 13th and the app is free until March 14th.