A hero image from "The Feed: Story Line" project.

The Feed: Story Line

The story of COVID-19, told by you.

Presented as an expansive wall of content, audiences can browse an almost infinite array of personal anecdotes and experiences, encompassing the fears and hopes that the pandemic has brought to Australia.

I love this kind of project, which combines a high level of development, artistic will, and testimony of the time.

This is amazing.

A thousand films, series, documentaries about Covid are sure to appear. But what they did in Australia is a genius.

The Project

Never have so many people been isolated from each other for so long. Nothing tears a community apart like fear and nothing brings it together like hope. As we collectively try to make sense of our strange and scary new lives, our need for human connection and a sense of community has never been greater, just when it is most out of reach. Story Line is an answer to this need: a new way of sourcing stories alongside a novel way of presenting them.

The far-reaching impact of COVID-19 restrictions presented a particularly unique challenge to video journalists; to tell visual stories from a physical distance, mostly from home. Story Line crowd-sourced stories through a free-call 1800 phone line (1800 THE FEED) as well as on social media, alongside direct approaches to affected communities to ensure a diversity of voices. The audio from those calls and messages are combined with home videos, personal photos and archival vision to give intimate glimpses into the many and varied impacts of COVID-19.

SBS’ The Feed team received more than 2400 calls and messages totalling more than 12 hours of audio. More than 50 short video documentaries were produced and more than 5.7 million Australians have seen one of these videos.

Available on mobile and desktop, the interactive website was designed to encourage exploration with no fixed arc. A restrained visual treatment lets the media be the guide, with the faces of contributors and quotes the entryway into each story. The design stretches out in all directions, feeling almost infinite, encouraging users to dip into stories organically.

Site of the Day
Developer Award
Site of the Day
Finalist - Multimedia Storytelling

What We Did

With over 250 pieces of content, spanning video, audio and text, Story Line began with building content wrangling tools that would fit our wild ambitions (no off the shelf CMS quite cut it).

Parallel to this, the creative process with our client The Feed included workshopping, ideation and prototyping. One thing rang true from this process; the pandemic felt overwhelming, Story Line needed to feel large and all encompassing. Custom GLSL shaders were authored to make the giant canvas feel like an immersive sphere surrounding the users. Each image fades into view like an old polaroid developing; an important memory in the here and now.

Below is what we contributed to the final result:

  • Production Client Workshops, Creative Direction, Design, Motion Graphics, Web Development, Project Management
  • Technology ThreeJS, GLSL, Javascript, Web Audio, AWS, Bespoke Media CMS (driven by FFMPEG)

Distil Immersive live and work on Gadigal land. We acknowledge and pay our respects to past, present and emerging Traditional Custodians and Elders of this Country and we recognise the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.