Archive for March, 2015

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Bear 71 is an interactive social documentary and a digital story telling project, that explores the surroundings of a specific bear who is trapped, tagged, released and closely kept under surveillance at Rangers Banff National Park in Canada. The documentary aims to raise awareness towards the crossing paths of animals, humans, and the world of technology through user-generated content.

The 20 minute short documentary uses the notions of digital storytelling, through the combination and use of data visualisation, surveillance footage videos, mapping and sound FX, which ideally compliments the ultimate online web experience.

⇒When was this project created?


The Bear 71 project took a period of 18 months to complete in 2012, with a budget of $350,000 Canadian Dollars. The funding by National Film Board allowed their official launch of the documentary, that went live on National Film Board of Canada’s (NFBC) site as a new interactive documentary, on 19th of January 2012.

Bear 71 was recognised as a rich installation in the New Frontier Program at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art.

⇒ Who created this project?

directors bear 71

Jeremy Mendes and Leanne Allison at official launch of Bear 71 2012 Sundance Film Festival

The project was created and directed by Leanne Allison, a successful film director and Jeremy Mendes, a creative technologist, collaborated and produced an award winning short documentary.


Leanne Allison

Leanne Allison, is an aspiring director, cinematographer and writer. Allison wanted to raise the awareness of how humans and their technologies impact on animals in the wild.

Having access to numerous wildlife surveillance that accumulated totalling 11 years from a national park, Leanne originally pitched the idea of a traditional documentary to the National Film Board(NFB).

jeremy medes

Jeremy Mendes

Jeremy Mendes, the co- creator of Bear 71, has more than 12 years experience of interactive projects. Mendes is currently working as a creator and interactive producer with National Film Board of Canada.

The most recent and successful project which he co-created was Bear 71, that landed many awards such as FWA site of the year 2012. Jeremy specialises in fields of Art and Creative Direction, Design, Illustration, story telling, interactive, motion, and information design.

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National Film Board

The producers of Bear 71 were the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). The NFB is a public agency that produces, distributes films and also other audiovisual works. The National Film Board based in Canada produce projects that reflect the home of Canadians and also to the rest of the world.

The NFB caters to a variety of projects that range from documentary films, animations, web documentaries and alternative dramas. Winning 5000 awards and named a 12 time Academy Award Winning public film and digital media producer and developer for the 13000 and counting productions made, the NFB is a successful platform for exploring a variety of documentaries.

⇒ Why was this project created?

bear 71

Banff National Park was officially established in 1885 and is recognised as the oldest national park in Canada. The park has millions of visitors each year, with a variety of activities to do including, white water rafting, golfing, hiking, bird watching, mountain climbing, canoeing, skiing, fishing and guided tours. This clearly impacts the wildlife in a negative way, due to the invasion of humans and their man made activities to further promote the beautiful scenic national park, however who is raising the awareness of the treatment of animals and the destruction of their homes?

Leanne Allison who originally had over 10 years of surveillance footage from her husband who was a park ranger that worked at Banff National Park. The footage consisted of videos of park rangers that captured, tagged and released wild animals such as grizzly bears, to study their activity and behaviours. Due to the low quality and resolution of the video surveillance and images, the idea of a producing a traditional documentary was challenging.

An interactive user generated documentary was more suited to the use of main content of video surveillance footage collected.

“When i saw these 10 000 trail camera photos, i just thought this is about surveillance, this is about us, this is about cameras in Time Square, this is about cameras in 7-Eleven.’ So that’s where we started to build the story around that”

Jeremy Mendes

⇒ Target Audience

target audience

Bear 71 has such a user friendly content documentary which caters to a broad audience. The project content includes visuals that are linked to a trail map of Alberta’s Banff National Park, this creative interaction differentiates it from a traditional documentary.

Local residents that live in the area could be a main audience.  Some local residents may be surprised and shocked as to how humans and technology strongly influence the wildlife, as well as the treatment of innocent animals being studied and watched constantly in their own homes. 

Employees such as park rangers could also be a main target audience of the interactive documentary as it gives them an idea of the history of the park and may reflect on what has changed since then.

Institutional groups such as environmentalist lobby groups, wildlife groups and lovers, researchers and activists may also find this project useful as a source of secondary research.

Overall the project may cater to the after group of 16 years to 30 years. Ideally everyone who has a basic knowledge of how to use the internet and navigate online and has a suitable device is able to access this user friendly content.

Understanding the English language is also a key factor that really allows the audience to engage and interact with the multi platformed documentary. The main focus of Bear 71 is storytelling, this concept sympathise and reflect emotions of that issue, especially with a first person narrative giving the sole focus to Bear 71.

⇒ What content is involved?

bear content

The Bear 71 project included thousands of surveillance footage from a period of 11 years at Banff National Park. Although the video clips were of low quality and resolution, it still allowed a multi-user experience that fit into modern societal standards with advanced technology.

A combination of digital tools such as videos, images, data, voice over, background music, background visuals and navigation tools built on a HTML5 core markup language, that compliments the user friendly experience of digital storytelling.

⇒ Platform


Bear 71 is an interactive documentary available online through the National Film Board website. It is purely online based, where it is only accessible through a desktop, which uses mouse and key board to navigate around. However, it is also available on any device possible mobile devices that supports Adobe Flash Player, that allows the user to have to ultimate experience.

The project also has a dedicated Twitter page that launched in 2012 when the documentary went live. On the Twitter page, there are updates of the project’s behind the scenes installation process and quotes from the documentary followed by videos and images.

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⇒ User Experience


The first engagement that the user has with the Bear 71 project informs them of the length of the documentary, then loads to a screen with multiple clips of the surveillance of Bear 71, followed by background music and instructions of how to navigate around documentary. After that it follows on to a small introduction of the grizzly bear.

Finally the user is able to navigate on an interactive grid that mimics the Banff National Park. There is also the option to turn on your webcam to receive the ultimate experience. After the option, there is a virtual tracker on screen throughout the park and allows you to navigate freely, whilst being tracked and kept under surveillance similarly to the animals.

⇒ User Interface

Visual Design


Throughout the documentary, there are minimal factual texts and is more focused on audio and visuals. The audio continues as the user navigates on the grid.

The design of the nature grid is similar to the idea of being in a virtual world in the park. As the user navigates around the map with their mouse or keyboard, they start to become aware that they too are being tracked within Banff National Park. Depending on which direction the user navigates towards, the grid itself follows the movement of the user, passing by trees and other animals. The user also has the option to click and follow any other animal that is being tracked and surveillance clips would appear alongside the interactive grid map.


With the majority of videos being black and white, the use of colours attempt to compliment this feature. An obvious repetition of colours throughout the project is black and white. This reflects the idea of surveillance, despite where we are as humans, we are constantly being watched even in our own homes, similarly to the animals at Banff National Park.

Although there are many other colours such as green, blue, orange used in the navigational process of the interactive grid, they seem to symbolise the natural features of Banff National Park, such as trees and lakes. This gives the user a more realistic interaction and experience in comparison to traditional documentaries.


The text elements throughout the project are in black and white. The main font coloured used was white which contrasted nicely with the black background. Although there was a variety of fonts used, they were clear to read and understand.


The project is in the English language as the area that it focuses is in Canada. This is a benefit for users as the English language is spoken globally. However, there is an option on the top right corner that links to the French translated page of the National Film Board website.


In term of speed, having fast internet speed is vital as the the documentary is supported by visual elements such as videos. The interactive documentary is a total of 20 minutes long, if a user were to have a slow internet connection, the video would constantly start and buffer. Therefore a stronger and faster speed internet connection is recommended for a greater experience.



The user is informed at the beginning of the documentary to navigate with their arrow keys on the keyboard, however in some cases, users are not able to navigate with the keys and instead use their mouse or track pad that offers the same experience.

The cursor of the mouse or trackpad symbolises the user itself as a tracker on the interactive grid. This allows the user to move across the screen freely and pass by other tracked animals. The user also has the option to click on an animal and see their surveillance videos, with the option to pause and play, as well as close the screen to go back to the grid.

 ⇒ User Interactivity

Social Media Integration

The Bear 71 project does not include many social media interrogations, however on the bottom left of the screen, there is a link to the Bear 71 Tumblr page. The Tumblr page is named ‘iamBear71’. The page has posts on the project in regards to articles and quotes as well as images from the Bear 71 live installation. There are currently 26 pages on the website from two years ago, with a few popular posts.

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The other form of social media that is also promoted is the Twitter page also named ‘iamBear71’. The account was created in January 2012 in Canada and it links directly to the documentary online. The Twitter page showcases photos and videos similarly shown in the documentary, as well as quotes. The account also links to the Tumblr page, and may be updated and used by the same person or group such as the National Film Board.

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On the bottom of the documentary page, there is also the option to share the documentary to other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg and

⇒ Conclusion

The Bear 71 project is an outstanding piece for digital storytelling due to its’ unique layout and visual concept. The idea of having a black and white low resolution video from eleven years ago and adapting to today’s modern society and ideas of surveillance. With its easy navigation throughout the documentary and heart warming story of Bear 71, it attracts users to also participate in the interactive documentary. In order to attract new users, the project should have a dedicated Facebook page as a main social media platform, which informs and introduces this award winning art, linking new users to experience it for themselves. 

⇒ Links