Between 2011 and 2013, photographer Michael Nichols and videographer Nathan Williamson shot over 240,000 images and 200 hours of film capturing the daily life of the Vumbi lion pride in Tanzania. Their footage was the subject of an extensive article in National Geographic magazine but it was also used to create this immersive digital experience. The Serengeti Lion microsite combines Nichols and Williamson’s footage with text and audio commentary from ecologist Craig Packer, who advised the pair and has studied lions in the Serengeti Plain since 1978.
Images are displayed full screen for maximum impact and the site is divided into sections, which each explore a different aspect of the lions’ behaviour: viewers can watch the animals playing, mating and hunting while listening to or reading an explanation of the footage presented. Intuitive and beautifully designed, it’s a compelling digital companion to the magazine’s print coverage.
Much like the New York Times’ Snowfall story, the Serengeti Lion was a labour intensive project. Jody Sugrue, creative director at National Geographic, says it took several months to plan and a team of ten around nine weeks to build. The aim was to create a different experience to reading the print article, adds Sugrue, using photographs and information that couldn’t be included in the original story. “We wanted to create an immersive exploration of lions, draw people in and make them aware of the very real problems the species face. If the magazine was the classroom, we wanted this to feel like the field trip,” she explains.
The project is the most ambitious interactive National Geographic has undertaken to date, and Sugrue says it is hopefully the first of many. “We’d like to keep pushing the boundaries even more, and we have the stories to do it,” she says.