What does a day in the life of the world really look like? Boring, whimsical, and profound all at the same time. Movie makers Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator) and Kevin MacDonald (The Last King of Scotland) have teamed up for a remarkable project that seeks to capture a snapshot of the globe and preserve it as a time capsule for future generations. The Life in a Day project gathered more than 5000 hours of video footage submitted by individuals all over the world on July 24th of this past summer. From that raw video executive producer Ridley Scott and director Kevin MacDonald will create the Life in a Day movie, a one of a kind documentary which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2011. The project’s raw footage is available to view in an awesome interface on their YouTube channel and will continue to exist online forever, so that future generations can explore that day in the life of the world. From the premise to the presentation, Life in a Day is using new media to tell an insightful story about the growing global community. Check out a trailer, message from MacDonald, and explanation of the editing process in the videos below. Then, go to the Life in a Day YouTube channel. Whether mundane or soul searching, the footage people have shared is utterly satisfying to explore.
Plenty of documentaries have featured the ‘a day in the life’ concept, and there have been many that were shot by the subjects of the film themselves. Life in a Day is different because of its scale and the time of its birth. Tens of thousands of people submitted videos. Certainly that’s a record. Yet this is just a trickle compared to the stream of videos that people are constantly uploading to the internet. This project has arrived in a time when video logging is coming into its own, and life logging (which we can define as perhaps a more comprehensive 24/7 approach to video logging) is gaining ground. Watching the trailer below, you get a sense that this project could not have been made at any other time in history. Not only that, but the task of collecting such a wide assortment of videos is likely to become incomprehensibly difficult as billions more go online in the future. We may be at a crucial moment where the technology is ready, but the adoption still limited enough, that a project like this can succeed. Wait another five years and that may no longer be the case.
Here Kevin MacDonald introduces the concept and invites participants. The time for submissions has passed however – all footage was due in by the 31st of July.
With more than 5000 hours of raw footage, MacDonald’s team will have to find 100-200 hours of video that best fits the needs of the documentary. From there they’ll edit it down to a screenable length. It’s a massive undertaking as editor Joe Walker explains:
I really do encourage you to spend some time looking through the video clips on the Life in a Day YouTube channel. It takes a while to find something that really moves you, but it’s totally worth it. Also, the interface for the channel is really cool. In collaboration with LG and YouTube (Google), Life in a Day has created a multi-path approach to exploring the video. You can see thumbnails of clips arranged in grids and spheres, or compare videos with opposing tags (like happy and sad). A globe allows you to see where videos originated thanks to geo-tagging. There’s even a ‘heat map’ that shows the concentration of video in various regions according to what time of day they were shot.
The scope and tone of this project impresses me even if the final product is a complete unknown. 5000 hours of disparate video clips into 2-3 hours of documentary film? That might be an impossible task, no matter how many diamonds they find in the raw footage. The real benefit here might be the linking together of so many life logging videos with the same theme into one place. I’m sure there are some profound sociological insights we can learn if we manage to explore that collection thoroughly.
In fact, I’m sort of wondering if we won’t eventually try to do something like this for every day in the life of the world in the future. With so many of us uploading videos to the web, it should be pretty easy to tag a few thousand with the date and time as representative of the day. Without the filter of Kevin MacDonald and Ridley Scott I’m not sure we’d find a uniting narrative, but there’s still some value there. Everyday, we are creating a living history of ourselves, not just as individuals but as a global community. We may never have the same opportunity to create a documentary like this one again, but our society may find that it is already creating time capsules for every moment…from now until forever.