Arcade Fire

The Wilderness Downtown

This week Arcade Fire launched the interactive video The Wilderness Downtown, based on their track We Used To Wait. Enter a street address (they suggest the address where you grew up), and a set of windows, with content synchronized to the song, delivers a mix of video, interactive pieces, and footage of your street address — animated and augmented. It’s pretty amazing — both technically and creatively.

What’s even more remarkable is that it’s a Chrome Experiment — done entirely in HTML5 — without any Flash. Google’s page on the project details the specific technologies and techniques used. Creative Review posts a great deal of background information.

What I found most interesting was how the concept developed. It was Aaron Koblin who first had the idea of an interactive film to showcase Google Chrome, rather than the band or their label instigating it. (If you’re not familiar with Aaron, you should absolutely check out his work on his website and sandbox. Most relevant to the Arcade Fire project was his involvement on Radiohead’s open source House of Cards project, for which he was the director of technology.)

It’s a great example of new technologies and experimentation driving creativity. And very encouraging to see a band like Arcade Fire regularly supporting such efforts… Digital versions of their songs feature Synchronized Artwork. And they’ve done several sites, including Neon Bible (which is an interesting experiment at getting a viewer to interact throughout a song) and Black Mirror.

The Wilderness Downtown
The Wilderness Downtown
Neon Bible

Update: Here’s a documentary on the making-of the site: