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.
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:
This might just be the "Snowfall" of data-driven storytelling. Wow! http://t.co/Eb0mg13xTg— Jens Finnäs (@jensfinnas) May 28, 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
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
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
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
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