2017 Feature, Large Newsroom winner

The Fine Line

About the Project

How do we engage a mobile audience to explain the balance of strength and technique athletes use to win gold at the Olympics? Inspired by Snapchat and mobile viewing habits, but with the elegance of a highly-crafted narrative, The Fine Line series creates a new kind of viewing experience that shows the physics and technique behind the performances of the world’s best athletes.

How exactly is Simone Biles able to clear nearly twice her height in a tumbling pass? Why does swimmer Ryan Lochte turn differently than other swimmers? Why has high jumper Derek Drouin found success in running slower than his opponents? And how did the injured triple jumper, Christian Taylor, rewire 10 years of muscle memory to regain his world title? Using data gathered through motion-capture technology, interviews with athletes and their coaches and by annotating slow-motion and underwater footage, The Fine Line series answers these questions and allows the athlete’s techniques to become clear to viewers.

To create this experience, our designers custom-built an interface that displays the content — text, graphics, video and audio — in “cards” that respond seamlessly to swipes and other user gestures. Traditional video interviews are combined with super-slow-motion videography. Motion capture imagery mixes with elegant annotation. And the experience is entirely responsive — different experiences are created for different browser sizes so the project remains tastefully designed on desktop and on mobile. For viewing off-platform, we used these elements in linear video versions of these projects that engaged over 60 million people on Facebook.

The Fine Line pieces were produced well before the Rio Games began. An integral part of the planning involved with these preview pieces is identifying the athletes who will likely be among the major stories at the Games. We identified athletes who all ended up winning gold and provided our viewers with a deep look at the athletes they’d want to learn about and come away with an understanding of how these athletes use the principles of physics to execute what initially seem like superhuman feats.