Highrise: a documentary built with WebGL and other open standards

Brett sez, "What does citizenship mean in a transnational, globalised context? One Millionth Tower, the latest strand of the multi-media, multi- award-winning HIGHRISE project from National Film Board of Canada, teams a group of highrise residents in Toronto with architects and animators to re-imagine their surroundings and transform their dilapidated highrise neighbourhood into a vibrant, resident-led community.

"Using cutting-edge open-source technology, this interactive documentary enables a 3D storytelling environment within a web browser, incorporating the magic of cinema, architecture and animation. A hyper-local story with a global resonance in its vision for a more human-friendly urban planet – and world wide web."

This thing is built in WebGL, which replicates the functionality of OpenGL, a popular open standard for drawing and animating 3D objects, using brwoser-only technology. It's exciting stuff on the tehcnical side, but it's also a damned cool and well-thought-through documentary that goes beyond a mere tech demo.

High Rise


  1. 1) I have to go to wired.com to watch a NFB documentary?  That makes Canada sad…

    2) “…the most commonly-built structure of the last era”? 
    More concrete high-rises have been built than, say, bungalows?  Than tin-roof shantys? 

    Really?  And this is so easy to google-research.   Just for the UK:
    “The number of houses built in the UK was an estimated 156,816 in 2009”.   

    So, where more than 157,000 ‘concrete-high-rise structures’ built in the entire world in 2009?

    Wildy inaccurately-reported statistical claims make Paul even sadder…

  2. The documentary looks interesting (though apparently it might be getting tis facts wrong), but the method of presentation is awful. Not only do I get different types of breakages on different types of browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox), but it is completely unintuitive to navigate. Bells and whistles should not be added at the expense of usability.

  3. It would certainly be nice of apartment residents, or even anyone with two brain cells to rub together, were ever consulted in condo “design”.  The rental building I’m in was “renovated” (or “vandalised” as we call it) in an effort to turn it into a condo.  None of the people involved had ever lived in a multi-apartment building and it really shows.  For example, they put incandescent chandelier-type light fixtures in the halls.  That’s enough heat output to cook the upper floors and also to fill up with bugs on the ground floor.  They pulled out the flowerbeds and put in groovy rock gardens with curvy edges.  The shrapnel generated by the first attempt at using the tractor lawnmower was really something to see.  They filled up with leaves and debris, and also ruined the drainage along the walls to the point that they needed to dig a trench to tar and re-enforce them.

    My pet peeve is that the undesigners of these things know nothing about heat transfer.  I doubt if they even know that hot air rises.  For example, simple transoms about the corridor doors would probably lower cooling costs by about 80% but we’ve forgotten everything that the Victorians knew about convection air conditioning.

  4. wow, with awesome technology like this for integration and projection of community ideas for feedback in a familiar virtual space as well as popular action like OWS; I’ve realised I still harbour an ember of sci-fi-fostered hope for humanity.

  5. This thing is built in WebGL, which replicates the functionality of OpenGL, a popular open standard for drawing and animating 3D objects, using brwoser-only technology.

    Not exactly. The functionality of OpenGL is not replicated, it’s referenced. WebGL is like using your browser as a remote-control for your video card. It’s not like sticking a video card inside your browser. It still does the rendering on your graphics card, using the same OpenGL API calls that have always been available for your graphics card. It is not “brwoser-only technology” any more than using sending data to the internet is “brwoser-only technology”. It’s a thing a browser can do, yes, but it’s not a thing that *only* a browser can do.

  6. You do realize that WebGL still has some security issues, as on browsers such as Google Chrome it can break free of the sandbox and access your GPU directly?

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