Monday, January 17, 2011

Creative Navigation for Complex Video Projects

Here's a multimedia project with an alluring navigation scheme that shows some creative planning and thinking.

It's an interactive Web documentary produced for the Web by Australia's SBS TV that explores the lives of African refugees and immigrants living within Australia, appropriately titled "Africa to Australia."

A cyberhat tip to SBS's Matt Smith, who alerted us to the package:
"The goal of the project is to inform the wider Australian population about the issues faced by, and contributions made by, African migrants (a highly under-represented community within the Australian media). However, we also wanted the content to work for these African communities, so we have translated the whole site into six African languages.

One of the other unique features is the related content area. As themes emerge within individual videos we relate them to other stories within the site. For example, a boy in Melbourne may be talking about discrimination, and the site will suggest sections of other videos that also discuss discrimination."
Considering the slop-pile hodgepodge that normally passes for Web video pages, the effort devoted to arranging and presenting the mix of individual tales is admirable.

The first-person stories are told by the subjects themselves, and they are shot (using both stills and video) in their own natural home and work environments. One nitpick is that the personal stories could use some more dramatic flair. Some of the subjects narrate their own names and background info into the camera, without much indication that an interviewer worked hard at digging out the kind of material that would have made for more compelling viewing. (One segment begins with a boy laboriously introducing each of his family members by reciting their dates of birth -- not a great hook.) The upbeat subjects mainly talk about themselves and their jobs (taxi driver, hip-hop MC, etc.), and their perceptions of adapting to their new homeland.

And as creative as its internal navigation is, curiously it's not easy to find "Africa to Australia" on the SBS homepage -- amidst the plethora of sub-links in the Video and Documentary categories. But once you do arrive, you are drawn in by the big attractive visuals, and are enticed to scroll from one story to another -- up and down, left and right -- since they are laid out in logical but non-linear fashion. Other links lead to supplementary text material, and there are also the requisite links that enable you to share the stories via Facebook and Twitter.

Overall, a professional job of packaging and presenting a multi-faceted multimedia project. Check out "Africa to Australia," and see if you agree.

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