Web Documentaries

A whole generation of young authors and directors view interactive storytelling as a promising new way of expression. They also view them as a wonder drug that will lure in tomorrow’s viewers who have grown up with multimedia content.

The fact is web documentaries are attracting ever-increasing audiences.

Webdoc: The Politics of Women's Health in Southern Africa

But what exactly is a web documentary? 

Also known as a webdoc, interactive documentary, i-doc or multimedia documentary, having so many terms to chose from gives an idea of how difficult the web documentary is to define.

Basically, web documentaries are stories of documentary character published on the Internet. They can be put together in different ways, use different interfaces and have different approaches to their subject matter, but they have several features in common.

The viewer’s new role

Viewers of web documentaries aren’t simply just viewers anymore because they can choose from various options within the web documentary, thereby influencing how the story unfolds. As such, they are somewhere in between being viewers and authors and in between having a passive and a participatory role. They have to come to terms with this new role.

Multimedia

Web documentaries aren’t limited to any one form of expression. They are multimedia in the best possible sense and so everything is allowable: video, audio, slideshows, audio slideshows, text, infographics, maps, charts, illustrations and additional interviews.

New types of collaboration

With such a profusion of possible multimedia forms, web documentaries need to have a wealth of specialists working on them. This means web documentaries require collaboration; designers, graphic artists, photographers and programmers work alongside the directors and producers from the very beginning of the production process. At Aperspective Media, we eliminate the hassle of finding multiple creatives – we produce web documentaries under one roof.

As the Canadian documentary maker Peter Wintonick says, a web documentary “is a kind of symphony, or at least a chamber music concerto with composers and conductors, and artists and audiences all playing important roles”.

Viewer participation

Most web documentaries incorporate some kind of viewer participation. At the very least, viewers have the possibility of joining in discussions, uploading their own photos, taking part in competitions or voting etc. In the ideal case, a web documentary can continue to be an active platform for certain topics or communities even years after its release.