Interactive Documentary Website

One of the strengths of Double Barrel Studios is our ability to use traditional storytelling techniques rooted in broadcasting, adapting it for the new media environment.

A good example of our abilities in content-rich online environments is the interactive web project, done for the McMaster Faculty of Engineering in 2012. The Faculty approached us to help them develop a website which would appeal to high school students considering an engineering degree at McMaster. What they wanted was an immersive experience, something more similar to a video game than a traditional website.

The result was – an interactive 360 degree panoramic microsite combining photography, video, text, music & soundscapes. Through a series of 26 embedded video vignettes and mini-documentaries, chronicles the experience of a McMaster Engineering student – from student life through to life as a professional engineer to excerpts from engineering lectures by McMaster’s top professors and PhD candidates. This enables potential students to see the campus, meet faculty members and student leaders and find out what their life at on campus might look like – truly a breakthrough in recruitment communication and marketing for organizations and universities alike.

Using the mouse or touchpad, students can enter the Faculty of Engineering buildings for a multimedia experience of video, photos and sound.  Clicking on graphic “hotspots” within the room, (such as a map of the world, two students talking, or starting a solar car), prospective students are taken to a video exploring a particular aspect of student life (such as joining Engineers Without Borders) or an aspect of their chosen career (Careers in Sustainable Engineering).

The next generation of engineering students have a much different relationship to computers than their parents. It is not enough anymore to provide a text and graphic website that doesn’t change. Youth are looking for something more dynamic. This project is designed to answer that need.

The technological infrastructure required over-the-top creativity and collaboration from both the Double Barrel Studios team and the award-winning interdisciplinary studio Helios Design Labs of Toronto.  Inspired by the Gemini Award winning National Film Board of Canada web documentary, “Out My Window”, ExploreMcMaster similarly provides an interactive virtual 360 degree tour experience.  ( )

The technology behind this site incorporates specially-crafted code that detects whether a user is visiting with a browser capable of using Flash or conversely offers a version of the site with HTML 5. The result is a consistent cross-platform and multi-browser experience, producing similar powerful results on smart phones, tablets as on desktop computers.

Lee Hillman, Double Barrel’s executive producer, says adapting HTML5 for this project required months of fine tuning.  “With every new technology, the learning curve is steep.  Now that we’ve mastered the interface, we’re excited about the possibilities of doing similar projects for other universities, for hospitals, for new building launches, tourist resorts .. virtually any kind of business wanting their potential customers to have a ‘you are there’ experience”.

Lucy Sheung, (former) Manager of Outreach and Enrollment at McMaster Engineering, says this is a leading edge online presentation which speaks to students who have used computers all their lives. “This new communication style allows McMaster’s Faculty of Engineering  to speak to the next generation of engineers in a language they understand because of the interactive, game-like interface. To our prospective students, the site functions as an online lab representing experiential education.”  She hopes that the use of new emerging technology will position McMaster Engineering as the standard that other institutions look to for interactive, online experiences.

Project Date

December 2012

Video Length

26 videos


Interactive Documentary



Target Audience

Prospective Engineering Students & Parents