Une définition qui n’existe pas encore, si ce n’est par les moyens techniques : il faudrait considérer que le web documentaire utilise le plus de moyens techniques mis à disposition sur le web : image / video /son /interaction / webcam / réseau, temps réel, mises à jour continues d’infos, forums de discussion, collecte d’infos par serveur….etc…

Forme apparue au milieu des années 90 et qui a évolué avec le médium

Journalisme temps réel

Un même sujet va être documenté de toutes les façons possibles : films, photos, sons, interviews, textes, liens, « paralell producing »

Interactivité : l’internaute comme director, les forums de discussion, l’apport de documents par les utilisateurs

Un travail collectif et collaboratif de mémoire

Dimension pédagogique très présente

Deux attitudes proposées : celle du lecteur et celle du spectateur

A partir de ces quelques sites j’essayerais de faire des analogies avec les documentaires classiques, même si je ne suis pas sure d’utiliser tous ces liens….


Questions socio-politiques


PBS Channel

Discovery Channel


Culture Techno

Musique classique : le site de Georg Solti

web docs scientifiques

Becoming human “Becoming human” is an interactive web documentary experience that journeys through the story of human evolution over four million years. The web site was created by the Institute of Human Origins, a non-profit multidisciplinary research organisation affiliated with Arizona State University, which is dedicated to the recovery and analysis of the fossil evidence for human evolution. Running the documentary programme requires Macromedia Flash Player 5; high speed connection and 64 MB Ram. There is also a news and views section with a comprehensive glossary, media references and links to evolutionary sources on the web.


mag multimedia




flash animation engagée



Burma trip : Geoffrey Hiller Like all of my work, it’s about communicating what I experience and see. With Burma, in particular, I wanted to show what is happening there culturally and politically. The Burmese have one of the richest cultures in the world and yet one of the worst governments imaginable. If you are caught with a modem you can be sentenced to 15 years in jail.



cinéma interactif


fran Illich auteur de modem drama une fiction interactive/ web docu s’inspirant de la vie à Mexico

Reality show basé sur le texte et blog en espagnol et anglais communautaire réalisé de février à mars 2003


chaîne collaborative et transnationale


travail de plasticiens






no backs roads : internet meets rural Amerika


œuvre collective


Sources :

Machine Age

by Edmund Lee

Explore Your World

Web Documentaries Put You in the Reporter’s Seat

September 16 – 22, 1998

The Village Voice

ast year in Tibet, on a classic-car road rally that went from Beijing to Paris, Drew Fellman encountered a bureaucratic snag. “A Chinese official did not want us there,” recalled Fellman of the work he was doing for Discovery Channel Online. “They threatened to put us in jail. They didn’t like the fact that we were documenting a sporting event through China.” Fellman and his colleague Michael Bettison decided to get out any way they could. They hitched a ride on a German tour bus, got to the Tibet-Nepal checkpoint ahead of the rally, and went through the border without being red-flagged. Thankfully, that was the most dangerous situation he’s been in while making a Web documentary. So far.

Next month, Dan Buettner, world-class cyclist and the original Web documentary maker, will go on an expedition to Africa to document the threat of extinction to Africa’s animals. In partnership with the American Museum of Natural History, AfricaQuest (africaquest.classroom.com) will link to over a thousand classrooms in the U.S. through Classroom Connect, an education site that’s also planning to broadcast the return of Keiko the killer whale to his home waters.

While they have yet to catch on in profit-hungry Silicon Alley, Web documentaries have been developing into a sophisticated journalistic genre. Documentarians generally record an expedition by posting a daily travelogue and pictures, and taking suggestions from Net users via e-mail. Some post photographs that allow the user to pan and zoom in using a relatively new virtual reality program. Despite their inability so far to attract significant attention, documentaries have remained one of the more consistently appearing content formats on the Web–along with chat rooms, search engines, and weather reports.

“It was bound to happen,” says Patrick Keane, an Internet analyst at Jupiter Communications. “Any offline content that has seen success will ultimately try to replicate itself online.”

Webumentaries, for lack of a better term, have been around for at least three years. In February of 1995, Buettnerexplored the ancient Mayan ruins of Central America on his bicycle and documented it on the Internet (the Web was still in its infancy). “We actually did it through Gopher, I believe,” says Buettner of the old-school protocol.

Using what at the time was sophisticated military communications equipment, Buettner linked to a satellite, posted a weekly travelogue on the now-defunct Prodigy network with his rather large laptop, and asked his Internet audience where he should go next.

Doing the first Internet documentary, however, was a difficult technical task. Buettner struggled with the prototype technology. On the first day of the expedition he recalls wiping out on his bike and breaking part of the heavy satellite phone he was carrying. He couldn’t pinpoint the satellite location for an uplink. “It was like trying to hit the head of a pin a hundred miles away with a BB gun,” he remembers.

After the trouble-laden initial documentary, Buettner embarked on three more expeditions to the Mayan region of Central America, this time with a focus on teaching kids in the classroom. Biking between various ancient Mayan sites, Buettner worked with archaeologists for his subsequent expeditions, collating the findings from digs and posting them to the Net. “The kids learn from the dig as it’s happening,” says Buettner. “But what’s really exciting is they can interact by sending us suggestions on where to go next or ask us to look into things we may have missed.”

The interactive element is what makes Web documentaries distinct from the traditional film version. “Being out there, it’s an incredible thing to receive e-mails from people,” says Liesl Clark, a producer of film and Web documentaries for PBS’s NOVA. “It doesn’t mean that [Web] outweighs [film]. The film documentary has its own place when we sit down and we want to be educated passively. But on the Web, you [the viewer] are in a way the director, viewing things at your own pace.”

In her expeditions for NOVA, Clark has landed in places as far away as Easter Island and as dangerous as Mount Everest, becoming in the process one of PBS’s more seasoned Web documentary makers and developing very specific skills for the format.

“You have to find someone who knows that if you put your batteries in a plastic baggie under your pillow at night on Mount Everest, it will preserve them better,” says Kevin Dando, communications manager for PBS Online. “We do these things all the time and in very difficult terrain. You have to find people who are technically savvy, have a sense of journalism, and can deal with being in the jungle.”

All Web documentary makers use essentially the same tools: a satellite phone that creates a link to the Net, a laptop, a modem (when you can’t find a satellite and a landline is near), a digital camera, a digital audio recorder, and preferably a solar battery recharger. “And any one of these things can go wrong,” notes Fellman. “We can break anything, and we have.” Fellman and his crew also employ Apple Newtons when in the field, sort of an updated version of the reporter’s notepad.

Clark prefers traditional cameras to digital ones since “they’re still much better and sharper.” When working on Mount Everest, she sent rolls of film via a runner or a yak down to an air strip, where they were helicoptered to Katmandu for developing. Snafus canrun from the technical to the, well, animal. “One time, when we reached the summit of Everest, we tried to do a Webcast press conference,” says Clark. “But the yak carrying the sat phone was lost.”

The process of documenting for the Web isn’t just about juggling multiple technical elements. A Web documentarian straddles documentary filmmaking and broadcast journalism–offline mediums that flirt with each other as they draw on similar skills.

“I essentially do both,” says Fellman, a graduate of Columbia’s journalism school. “I consider myself a journalist first but I also make documentary films. I try to make the most of any event by doing a film, putting it on the Web, writing a book. Anything and everything.”

“It’s hard to come up with an accurate term for what we do,” says Clark. “I guess you could call it ‘parallel producing.'”

Parallel producing is the only way to do it these days when developing content for the Web. “I’m skeptical of Web-only productions,” says Seema Williams, an Internet analyst for Forrester Research. “People who do more than one [medium] work better. For a single-production effort, they’re producing more than one product.” Candide Media Works, the Silicon Alley company Fellman works for, is primarily in the business of making Web documentaries, but it also does the Silicon Alley shuffle by contracting itself to create Web sites for media corporations. “That’s how we pay the bills,” admits Fellman.

Currently, Candide and larger entities like PBS and the Discovery Channel are the only ones who make Web documentaries on a regular basis. “But not that long ago a lot of people were throwing money at this,” says Fellman. “It just went through a correction recently, but I think there will be renewed interest.”

Microsoft’s Mungo Park is perhaps the best example of the correction. As part of MSN’s Expedia site, a travel site that allows users to book airfares and hotel reservations, Mungo Park was a gimmick to exploit consumers’ dollars by documenting expeditions to faraway romantic places like Timbuktu or Java. But the gimmick was dropped–along with all the other content products Microsoft was developing–back in February, as part of the company’s new strategy to offer more practical services like news, weather, travel, and search.

Today, producing content has taken a back seat to becoming a “portal” or Internet hub–a permanent home page, so to speak. Heavy hitters on the Net, from Yahoo and Lycos to MSN and AltaVista, are flaunting their portal status. Still, some think that Web documentaries are closer to the true sense of what the Net wants to be. “We are fulfilling the promise of the medium,” claims Buettner. “We’re taking people places and letting them participate in the real world.”

Web Documentary Slams Home Reality of Prisons

360 Degrees of Incarceration

by Francine Russo

January 17 – 23, 2001

The Village Voice

The title “360degrees” reflects both the structure and theme of this Web documentary, which was designed to offer multiple perspectives on criminal justice. Just as the camera appears to pan around each room, so the commentary also shows every side—criminal, victim, prosecutor, defense attorney, families, scholars, and criminal historians. The idea, say Alison Cornyn and Sue Johnson of Picture Projects, is to inspire dialogue—and to instigate change.

“There are a lot of myths about incarceration,” says Todd Clear, Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice at John Jay College and an adviser to 360degrees, “and this is an important part of contemporary society. This country’s prison population is the largest per capita in the world. For a country that values freedom yet locks up more people than anywhere else, it has to ask itself some hard questions about its policies.”

The site, says Clear, will bring together two key constituencies who usually never converse. “One group is those with direct experience of the criminal justice system, personally or through family and friends. The other is those who only know what they read and hear, all from the point of view that more prisons make us safer.”

This isn’t Cornyn and Johnson’s first venture into social action. Their studio was founded in 1994, when they and former partner Chris Vail signed on as the design team for a site to showcase photographer Gilles Peress’s Bosnia photos. After their attention-getting Farewell to Bosnia, they worked with other artists and academics to produce Web documentaries: their award-winning akaKURDISTAN with Susan Meiselas (www.akakurdistan.com) and Re: Vietnam—Stories Since the War with Marc Weiss for POV and PBS (www.stories.org).

Cornyn and Johnson got the idea for 360degrees after reading The Real War on Crime, a report by an independent commission. “We thought,” says Johnson, “that we could interpret this data of the 2 million Americans who are in prison and make it come alive.” The facts about this social crisis, they think, have been buried in statistics and technical reports that make them unreal to the average person. Not on their Web site. Besides the dramatic personal accounts, it proffers crime statistics through quizzes, games, and interactive maps.

But getting funding for a Web documentary—a new, hardly recognized art form—was not easy, and the documentarians, whose studio subsidizes their art by creating commercial interactive sites, needed outside help. Cornyn and Johnson teamed up with Joe Richman, an independent producer for NPR, who helped them get access to two prisons, one in Rhode Island and another in North Carolina. Johnson and Richman went into the prisons together and gave tape recorders to selected inmates and officers. Some of these “diaries,” recorded over six months, will be heard on Richman’s NPR Prison Diaries series, which airs on All Things Considered each Tuesday in January. 360degrees will feature a more extensive selection of these narratives.

The team had a harder time getting cameras into the prisons. Though the pictures on the site look as if they were shot in video, in fact Johnson was forbidden to use a video camera inside. Instead, she shot each space in pieces with a still camera, 20 degrees at a time. To create the effect of motion, she uses QuickTime VR, a technology used mainly by real estate sites to show homes for sale. “The panorama was important,” says Johnson, “because we’re asking, how can you immerse yourself in someone else’s life—360 degrees?”

The site’s three interactive forums also attempt to look at incarceration—along with race and class—from every side. On this segment of 360degrees, there are e-mail exchanges between criminal justice experts, judges, lawyers, victims’ rights proponents and other activists, ex-cons, gang members—and you. Cristel and John will also be able to participate, by reading transcriptions and mailing in their responses. This ambitious project includes an online teaching component, the Social Action Network. The six-week course for college and high school students is already being used by small groups from the South Bronx and the Lower East Side who’ll get together both on the Web site and in person and have a chance to talk to justice professionals and ex-offenders. Their assignment: Design a plan for revamping the system.

360degrees is a growing concern. “New stories will be added every other month for two years,” says Cornyn. “Then, hopefully, this will be handed off.” Picture Projects’ idea was to create the site as a pilot for a national program to be run by a social service or educational organization.

“Some of my students who don’t talk a lot in class were active online,” reports Maria Finn, an English teacher at Hunter College who participated in a test run last year. Her students listened to the stories and debated issues like whether prison was for punishment or rehabilitation. They also did interviews with people in the system, like correction officers or ex-offenders. “Cristel’s story got them very excited,” she recalls. “It made crime very real to them, not just something they see on TV.”

Documenting Surgery Half a World Away

Operation web casts “Virtual Mission” to share volunter expeience with others

New Media for Non Profit

A web documentary project is ambitious. For starters, we will be on location in Viet Nam. We’ve decided to produce the content and publish the site on-location, which means everything needs to be portable and digital. We will be publishing in real time, which means while we’re producing the project, the subjects will be able to review it. It will be our challenge to write objectively and face daily looks-over-our-shoulders from our subjects.

The project is interesting from two perspectives: certainly the medical and surgical work is interesting, and so too is the process of telling the story.

F.R. “Fritz Nordengren editing on an Apple PowerBook on the floor of an operating room in the Military Academy of Medicine in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

Joining me on this project is photojournalist Huy Nguyen, of the Dallas Morning News.

The Gear We’re Taking

Still photo work

Huy is shooting with the Canon D2000 digital camera. For back up, and for those informal situations where a large camera might be obtrusive, I’m shooting with a Canon Powershot 100. This small, credit card sized digital camera goes into a pocket and can go with us everywhere.

With backups for the computers, camera, and capture cards, we should be able to publish images on our schedule. This is now the third virtual missions with very limited technical failures. Even so, Huy is shooting some film which we can scan upon our return if there is a catastrophic digital failure.


Much of the multimedia content for the web site will be audio driven, rather than video. We’ll have some high-bandwidth video content, but since dial-up is still the most common connection to the net, our multimedia will be audio to enhance the storytelling of the images. We’ll be capturing our audio using the Sennheiser ME66 short shotgun mic as well as Tram lavaliere microphones. I’ll also be using a Samson UM 1 wireless setup.


Video is a third priority asset for us to acquire on this trip. While it will be nice to be able to have the video from the trip for possible future projects, any video we do use in this project will be delivered via the web, most likely in QuickTime format. For that reason, the Canon GL1 is our first camera of choice for this project.

We used the GL 1 in Venezuela and Mexico and had great results. It’s smaller and lighter weight than the Xl-1, and while it compromises some of the manual control of image making, it delivers excellent video.


The computer support needed for a project like this includes the ability to send and receive e-mail, upload web pages, review and edit photos, making them web ready, editing audio and editing video.

To do a project like this a few years ago required a dedicated studio of multimedia computers and the project probably would have been assembled at “home” rather than on-location. Today’s reality is this can be done all on location and with a small pack of gear.

Our computer of choice for this project was the Apple PowerBook G3. Apple Computer agreeably donated two G3 PowerBook’s to the Operation Rainbow as well as Final Cut Pro software (more later). We’ve beefed up the standard 64MB of memory to 196MB in each. Additionally, we’ve added RATOC Firewire card bus cards, giving us Firewire input for the GL1.

Firewire would also give us access to Firewire based storage drives, but here’s something to keep in mind. While the Firewire card is capable of 400 mbits data transfer — the protocol also transfers at 100 mbits and 200 mbits. Just because a drive is Firewire doesn’t mean it can handle the speed necessary for smooth DV transfer. So a faster and more stable solution was to buy a media bay (sometimes called an expansion bay) drive. Our is a MCE Xcaret drive, which is a 18GB drive in a slide in mounting that replaced the CD/DVD ROM drive on the right side of the PowerBook.

When it comes to computers, and non-linear editing systems, it continues to be a good idea to do your homework before investing money in any system. While Firewire has a theoretical speed of 400MB/s the actual performance of Firewire drives varies. For a studio configuration, LVD SCSI drives make better sense. And in the PowerBook, a Media bay drive is fastest solution and has no cables!


The third element of the trinity is Final Cut Pro, the nonlinear editing software from Apple. This product has matured significantly since I had a chance to preview it pre release when it was still owned by Macromedia. Apple has improved it and brought to market a phenomenal product. The most amazing thing to me is that you can edit video on a laptop. Which means for us, in Viet Nam, we can review footage daily, publish video to the web for high bandwidth viewers, and capture and edit audio for our other interactive segments.

Design Interact article by Joe Shepter

Peel Interactive Media is nothing if not honest about the current state of its specialty, Web documentary production. “The Web is in an awkward phase right now,” says Cathryn Buchanan, the firm’s executive producer. “The medium is still evolving, and I feel like saying, ‘Hurry up, let’s get this more engaging.’”

Like everyone working on cultural Web sites, Peel is grappling with a tough problem: How to find a place for a new medium in a field that already has two—books and films—that are doing quite well.

“Film is a very emotional media and you can make a strong impact with it,” Buchanan explains. “But a book can have more information. In some ways, the Web is actually similar to film. You can’t have so much information, but then…”

As she trails off, you can fill in the sentence, “it doesn’t have the same impact either.”

To give it a break, Web documentaries are still new, and productions are improving. For its own part, Peel has produced some of the Net’s best “layered storytelling” to date. Layered storytelling means that a site opens much like a film, with a splash of music, photography and animation—but not a lot of information. If you stay on the top level of the site, your experience is similar to watching a documentary on television. But if you click on any topic, you dive down into a more book-like experience, with long texts and additional background information. The idea is that a visitor skims along the surface until he or she finds something interesting and then digs in to read more.

Based in Seattle, Peel has four fulltime members: creative director Kevyn Smith, studio director Tania Aleo, interactive director Dan Riley and executive producer Cathryn Buchanan. They’ve been together since January 2001 and have produced work for Starbucks, the New York Philharmonic, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Amnesty International.