What is it?
Money & Speed: Inside the Black Box is a new type of interactive documentary developed specifically for the iPad. It tells the story of the 2008 "flash-crash" on the US financial markets, a spectacular financial meltdown from which markets miraculously
recovered in twenty minutes time.
The TouchDoc investigates the relation between man, market and machine in an interactive way, incorporating a live data feed of share prices, written sources, and web links.
The TouchDoc, the first documentary to be designed exclusively for the iPad, explores the future of finance and high frequency trading. It is available in the iTunes store in English (€0.89) and Dutch (free).
How does it work?
The layered documentary combines investigative journalism and live visual data analysis in one app for the iPad, but the story can also be watched online as a regular, linear documentary.
When watching the linear documentary film in the app, extra layers of information pop up as it plays. Pop up screens present additional information without interfering with the story (the film simply pauses until you hit play again). The pop-ups show in-depth background information, both textual and visual.
The tablet is the most appropriate medium to merge top qualities of design with documentary
Besides the app and the television documentary, the VPRO Backlight website also plays the linear documentary online, with a synopsis of the story, room for comments, and a vast information stream on the subject. Think: extra videos with interviews, blogs, a lexicon and written background information.
Why did they make it?
Maker Marije Meerman: “We wanted to tell the story of the automation of financial markets and build a
story structure that went beyond the three basic levels of image/sound/music. The tablet is
the most appropriate medium to merge top qualities of design with the dramatic strengths of documentary storytelling."
"Especially with this complex subject, it makes sense to use data visualization. The app facilitates this in an interactive way, creating a greater understanding of the subject.”
“It has been a very positive experience. People from various technical and creative backgrounds worked together, leading to important new story-driven technical insights.”
“The problem was inventing everything from scratch, nothing similar had been made or done before. The high production costs were certainly a bit of a downside. The film and app together took us around €180,000 to make. It is not a commercial project, but an experiment that will hopefully inspire other creators.”
“Until it will be possible to download a template for a TouchDoc this kind of production will not be within everyone's reach. Furthermore, technology restricted the market for this app: at the time, it was impossible to build this app for Android. Lastly, it was somewhat frustrating that after this costly and complex production process, we did not have any budget left to do international marketing. However, in spite of that, it did catch on internationally, it was presented as "showcase", and it won many prizes.”
Why did we select it?
This experimental documentary (app) is a marriage of strong storytelling and meticulous visual analysis. The TouchDoc showcases the new possibilities opened up by the merger of two media forms, film and interactive computing.
The app provides in-depth, real time information in new ways. It is user-friendly in many
way, enabling viewers to decide how much information they want and how much
time to spend on it. The production company that also developed How to Start a Revolution took its inspiration form Money & Speed and is now offering the TouchDoc as a template for further use.
Money and Speed is part two of a trilogy Meerman made about the winners and losers of the tech revolution on Wall Street. The second and last part "The Wall Street Code" aired on VPRO Dutch Public Television in 2013.
Another example of a Touchdoc produced for the iPad is "How to Start a Revolution" about the work of 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gene Sharp.