After discussing the project’s genesis and some aspects of the storytelling process, I asked director Anrick Bregman to share more insights about immersive tools, music and sound design featured in his web doc The Most Northern Place.
Prominent Monkey: Which are the main features that create the immersive experience you designed for the viewer?
Anrick Bregman: I think the whole experience is immersive in the sense that, through interacting, you’re more involved with the story than if it were a traditional film. You’re exploring a story and finding out about it step by step, rather than following a narrative with an introduction, a series of in-depth chapters, and then a conclusion.
But in addition to this, there are two ways in which we tried to transport you over to Northern Greenland a little bit. The pre-loader doesn’t show you a percentage or a spinning graphic, or anything like that. What we’re doing while loading the main website is counting the number of miles between you and the actual place where the story takes place, Thule in Northern Greenland. We also point in the direction of Thule using a compass graphic.
The other immersive chapter is a web-based old-fashion radio that we built to mimic the way people used to communicate in remote communities. This allows you to speak to anyone else who is on the website at the same time as you are.
P. M.: Speaking about sounds, I find the background music mesmerizing. How did you get this feeling from the composer?
A. B.: I worked with a very talented composer, Alex Kozobolis, and I asked him to make a piece of music which would not sound too sad, or too happy, and which would have no specific rise and fall, like a traditional score might. It should loop and create a unique feeling while not having a lot of distinctive qualities to it.
Music for interactive films is very hard to compose, because you can’t plan ahead where any part of your score will play, within the timeline of the visuals. If the viewer pauses the film for a while (to make a cup of coffee, for example) the music continues. So there’s no sense of sync. Despite this challenging brief, I think Alex achieved something remarkable. It was just him, playing at a piano with a small recording device. But I loved it the moment I heard it.
P. M.: What about sound design?
A. B.: I worked with Richard Nathan to create a soundscape that would complement the score. I gave Richard a lot of sound files that I had extracted from Nicole Paglia’s footage. Different sounds live recorded in Greenland, in and around Qaanaaq. But because we’re talking about memories of events which took place a long time ago, Richard started to use effects like reverb to process those snippets of audio. It created a really nice balance, I feel like the sound design is the perfect canvas for the music to sit on – they work together perfectly, if you consider that they were created by different people at two very different times.
Technically, we had the music playing independently from the visuals. While the sound effects are broken up into two layers, one of which running with the music, other layers of the sound effects are embedded within the video files.
P. M.: Your web doc is now online, but I know that there is a chapter two in progress…
A. B.: The Most Northern Place was always intended to be a first chapter, while our next project will complete the story. The first one tells the story of the town of Thule, and how it was moved to make way for a U.S. Airbase. Our next chapter will ask the simple question of why that happened. Watch this space!