In June 2017, Canada’s Olympic athletes gather in Calgary for a media summit as a preview to the Games. Globe and Mail videographer Timothy Moore was tasked with interviewing more than 30 athletes and identifying key storylines and trends that we could develop into immersive visual explainers.
From that initial event, our visuals team honed in on three storylines: mogul skier Mikaël Kingsbury, who is one of Canada’s most decorated athletes despite never having won Olympic gold; a deep look at how sledding athletes prepare for an exceptionally challenging course; and an introduction to mass start speed skating, a new event at Pyeongchang. Each feature required in-depth pre-planning and
storyboarding in order to produce a project that would be ready to launch as soon as the Games began in February.
Each piece in the series uses the same interactive template, which mixes original high-definition video with athlete interviews and motion graphics. The video was filmed to fit the interactive experience, prioritizing detailed, looping video, drone footage and aerials over traditional documentary-style footage. In total there were 300 video and photo files, optimized for mobile and then scaled up to desktop, in order to ensure maximum performance and a smooth reading experience. Finally, we took care to integrate audio in a way that put the reader first: using sound to enhance the experience but never get in the way of comprehension.
In order to explain what was at stake for Kingsbury’s pursuit of Gold, we hired an Australia-based extreme sports cinematographer to shoot his training camp. We used a combination of tight, looping video and drone footage to build an immersive experience the places the reader at the centre of Kingsbury’s runs — and dissected his performance using annotated motion graphics and illustration.
For our in-depth exploration of sledding sports, Tim asked a few athletes to take us through how they prepare and visualize their runs. We ended up with an unexpectedly intimate and almost whimsical portrait of their sport — and also identified the biggest challenge of the Pyeongchang course: Corner No. 9. To demonstrate the difficulty of the course design, we married point-of-view footage with an animation of the course, and visualized official race data from International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) televised playback, painstakingly tracing each competitor through the most difficult turns.
Inspired by the complex rules and comparisons to roller derby, The final piece, on mass-start speed skating, is an exercise in making the most chaotic sport look simple. We visualized the rules using race and track animation, and compiled a multi-camera view of the race. Shooting from a scissor lift provided camera angles not included in traditional TV coverage.
Readers responded well to the storytelling approach:
“Great feature on @MikaelKingsbury & Moguls. #TeamCanada I also love the story design…it’s so easily consumable in small digestible pieces.”
“Another great piece highlighting mental skills and their important usage in preparation. I love the use of kinesthetic imagery at the beginning – moving with imagination.”