The Fallen of World War II, a short animated documentary about war and peace, launched on Memorial Day, May 25th. On June 3, it exceeded one million plays after only nine days of being online.
The traffic was generated almost entirely from viral activity. A marketing budget of less than $500 was spent on the launch.
The film uses cinematic data visualization techniques to explore the human cost of the second World War, and it sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including recent conflicts. Although it paints a harrowing picture of the war, the documentary highlights encouraging trends in post-war battle statistics.
The film has already received recognition via Twitter from thought leaders including Steven Pinker, Hans Rosling, and Guy Kawasaki.
Can data be emotionally gripping, visually stunning, world-view-changing? Don't miss @neilhalloran's Fallen of WWII https://t.co/rb379Xyov9— Steven Pinker (@sapinker) May 31, 2015
An excellent & important infographics!! It shows how terrible World War II was! It was worse than all wars since 1945 http://t.co/JOP8yK6inO— Hans Rosling (@HansRosling) June 1, 2015
A mind-blowing data visualization project about the human toll of WWII (and beyond)… http://t.co/wREUjaRiGB pic.twitter.com/n9Ebkpn1zI— Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki) May 31, 2015
Probably the best piece of data-driven history so far http://t.co/lfJDpiYYXa— Nicolas Kayser-Bril (@nicolaskb) June 2, 2015
The documentary received front page coverage on national websites including TheDailyBeast.com, Gizmodo.com, TheBlaze.com, HuffingtonPost.gr, and Vimeo.com (Staff Picks).
Most website referrals (72%) were from social media sources. Facebook accounted for 42% of its referred traffic, followed by reddit (voted to #5 entry) at 13% and Twitter at 9%.
The majority of the viewers (89%) watched the non-interactive video version of the film hosted by Vimeo, which was embedded on pages of other websites.
The interactive version, available only at www.fallen.io, provides extra features and a more dramatic ending. Using WebGL, a graphics technology that became available to all major web browsers in the last year, it renders cinematic visual effects in real-time, allowing viewers to interact with the imagery on screen. Real-time rendering also lends itself to a Virtual Reality (VR) version of the film, using technology such as Google Cardboard or Oculus Rift. The production of a VR edition is just getting underway.
As an example of emerging forms of "creative coding," the film was created almost entirely from custom software, and the director personally coded the project. In addition to providing interactive functionality, this technique allowed the filmmaker to choreograph the visuals closely with the underlying data sets, and to the film's original musical score.
Despite only being available in English (translation to other languages is already underway) the film has reached a global audience. U.S. visitors accounted for less than half (48%) of the total plays.
Viewers are asked to pay an optional "ticket price" for watching the film. The "suggested ticket price" is $2.50, but more generous levels of support can be selected. As of June 3rd, the site has received 1,392 contributions totaling $8,620 (the average contribution was $6.19).
The film was written, directed, coded, and narrated by Philadelphia-based Neil Halloran. Original music and sound design was created by London-based Andy Dollerson.Because of the successful launch, Neil is planning to produce future episodes in the fallen.io series.
Below is a small sampling of tweets made about the project. A larger collection can be viewed using the following two urls:
The interactive animated data visualisation bar just got raised by @neilhalloran http://t.co/eD6HfarqDq Worth all 18 mins.— Miriam Quick (@miriamquick) June 3, 2015
An exceptional, breathtaking interactive data-viz on death in war (& WW2): http://t.co/90NZ5hxmDO by @neilhalloran for #MemorialDay2015— Kenneth Cukier (@kncukier) May 31, 2015
Artful, chilling interactive video/data viz on WWII & trends in armed conflict http://t.co/MMM2uweYxR by @neilhalloran via @3876— Jay Ulfelder (@dtchimp) May 28, 2015
Fallen: a "web documentary". Brilliant use of the web platform and WebGL http://t.co/HzrUWBlGMB Interactive bits at 7:20 16:20 & the end— Paul Irish (@paul_irish) May 28, 2015
This might just be the "Snowfall" of data-driven storytelling. Wow! http://t.co/Eb0mg13xTg— Jens Finnäs (@jensfinnas) May 28, 2015
This http://t.co/73wIJ2es4b is extraordinary. I could say it's a brilliant use of data, but that's to belittle it.— Nick Read (@theblueworm) May 28, 2015
A great data-driven documentary & piece of art by @neilhalloran. Should be part of every school curriculum http://t.co/zRlGiVFoGE— Andries De Reyghere (@dretio) May 28, 2015
TREMENDOUS WWII data-driven documentary about war and peace by @neilhalloran. WARNING once you start you CANNOT stop! http://t.co/QMOwNJ5et8— Stratos Safioleas (@stratosathens) May 26, 2015
This video profoundly affected me, extremely well done presentation. If you're a history geek, I suggest watching https://t.co/az4LjlCXH9— Scott (@GreatScottLP) May 30, 2015
Absolutely the best film on the Internet The Fallen of World War II https://t.co/eldjCgtNfZ I watched the lot thank you @neilhalloran— Bob Flavin (@thenextgear) May 30, 2015
A data visualisation masterpiece about the sad truths of the fallen of WWII: https://t.co/b5ckJvFzTX via @neilhalloran #WOW— Sina Iravanian (@sinairv) May 30, 2015
Emotional and coding tour de force -- The Fallen of World War II http://t.co/6fHog0ciyf via @neilhalloran— Kent Beck (@KentBeck) May 28, 2015
A huge credit to @neilhalloran for the best #datavis I've ever seen. Makes you think how stupid wars are. http://t.co/KL0Y6NTmk6— Martin Velicky (@martinvelicky) May 30, 2015
Storytelling + data + good design --> amazing presentation of WWII casualties in a broader context of war and peace. http://t.co/VnqEdl4w9D— Emily Kirkegaard (@ThisMedievalLyf) May 27, 2015
Part data visualization,part documentary,part interactive space. http://t.co/SYtxPWfUVC demonstrates what one can do in the new wrld of data— Laila El Gohary (@Laila_ElGohary) May 27, 2015
Loving http://t.co/930MIK3HQR by @neilhalloran. Part video, part interactive #dataviz and the ending blows my mind pic.twitter.com/Hh0UbDqmxf— Kimberley Porteous (@brontegirl) May 28, 2015
Heartbreaking and beautiful. A good example of how data vis can be used to convey a message and elicit emotions http://t.co/6ODERCnRz0— Paige Mustain (@Paige_Mustain) May 28, 2015
I'm getting shivers watching this project. Incredible work, @neilhalloran. http://t.co/I9wB3JMOdo— JSON Statham (@sachasayan) May 28, 2015
Amazing and harrowing look at the deaths of WWII, with interactive charts. Best infographics I've seen in a while. http://t.co/tTJ9LUiTOW— Jason Cornwall (@jecornwall) May 29, 2015
Astounding, harrowing, profound, and well worth 18 minutes of your life, and if you feel generous, a few dollars: http://t.co/HEBGZKiFsC— John Schlickenmaier (@jpschlick) May 29, 2015
Bloody amazing. | The Fallen of World War II - Data-driven documentary about war & peace http://t.co/MfhWFh3pXo via @neilhalloran— Gautam John (@gkjohn) May 29, 2015
Stunning interactive video on losses during WW2. Directed and coded by one guy. Genius! http://t.co/cJ81vaunyB— Valentin F (@kuschilop) May 29, 2015
Haven't seen a better explanatory video than http://t.co/drb6yl21CF for a long time now. Truly outstanding. #threejs— Sukant Garg (@gargsms) May 29, 2015
http://t.co/R8smvtP1aa via @neilhalloran This is quite possibly the best animated interactive video on history I've seen on the internet.— Joy (@Unjoyful) May 31, 2015
Everyone please take a few minutes to go through this presentation. I have never seen something so tragic in my life. http://t.co/Y2kYAV5x4z— Ty Kiatathikom (@TKia_) May 31, 2015
Everyone should see this, no matter how much or little you know about WWII: http://t.co/Wcq5wgirA2— Ryan Hunneshagen (@OhRyanHunn) May 31, 2015
One of the best videos I've ever watched. http://t.co/ozxxZuVhZV— Jeff (@RozanJeffrey) May 31, 2015
WOW! Utterly BRILLIANT short video on WW2 statistics ~ Worth taking the time to watch for context on our times. http://t.co/zXRHybqSrh— Pira Urosevic (@PiraU) June 2, 2015
Maybe the most exquisite data visualisation I've ever seen. Grasping war, and peace, in the casualty figures of #WW2: http://t.co/m9WVacwlkn— Raghu Karnad (@rkarnad) June 4, 2015
Amazing data visualisation of deaths in war https://t.co/6aamPyJ2KO History teachers, fill your boots!— Robyn Evans (@jailbirdstreet) June 3, 2015