Back in April I gave you a preview of Condition ONE, a disruptive technology about to wash over traditional journalism. The app promised to allow viewers to become completely immersed in the event they are watching thanks to the proprietary camera technology used to record the event and the iPad itself. No longer would our view of events be limited to the journalist's point of view, the app promised. Through it, viewers could tilt, pivot, and swipe around the footage, giving themselves complete control to manipulate the footage and change their field of view at will.
Condition ONE is now live in the App Store, and I'm happy to say it's lived up to its promise. The app is the brainchild of war documentarian Danfung Dennis, whose film Hell and Back Again won the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival. In April I said that Condition ONE could be likened to the moving photographs in the world of Harry Potter, but after Dennis gave me an exclusive preview of the app that I've played with for the last few days, I realize that Condition ONE is more like the moving images of Harry Potter on steroids.
Utilizing custom camera rigs, the technology allows photojournalists to capture an all-encompassing view of what's going on around them. This means journalists are now able to bring in the viewer -- who traditionally had a very passive role in an event -- as an active participant. Using the app, viewers can rotate the iPad in any direction to get a different perspective on the action. It works so well it actually does make you feel like you're there. While watching footage of Libyan soldiers running across a field, I actually jumped in my seat as I heard a bang go off "behind" me. When I rotated around, I saw that I was standing next to a massive gatling gun.
The app has a nice layout that gives you several options of how you can explore the footage it offers. When you launch Condition ONE, you're able to search by filmmakers or stories. Selecting "Stories" will take you to a screen that shows you all the available stories. Tap any story to view its individual episodes. No video footage is actually embedded in the app when you download it from the App Store; instead, you can choose to download an event's footage on the "Episodes" page. A short preview of the event is usually available to download, or you can choose to download the full version for the "full immersive experience." Because you're downloading a file that offers a full immersive 360 degree experience and not just a traditional video file, the sizes can be quite large. For example, a 1 minute 49 second preview is 194 MB, and a 9 minute 40 second movie is 1.6 GB. A different 11 minute episode is 2.5 GB. However, the large file sizes are well worth the download.
What's almost as good as the immersive footage itself are the video biographies of the filmmakers. As you view a bio of a filmmaker, his image moves just like those in Harry Potter photographs. Tap on the filmmaker's body to see him come to life and explain why he does what he does. Hearing from the photojournalists who are out on the front lines, many times literally putting their lives at risk to report on the atrocities committed against the world's least fortunate, is nothing short of moving. Particularly poignant was French journalist Patrick Chauvel talking about how wars move like tides around the world, and why he chose to live the life of a war documentarian: "You meet people who need your story. I feel responsible for the people who are far away suffering...so I tell their story to people who don't have the time and who can't go to their places. No one will ever forget what happened in the death camps in Germany because of [photojournalism]." He goes on to say that photojournalists are witnesses to crimes and without a witness there is no crime.
That's what makes Condition ONE such a powerful and disruptive tool in photojournalism. It makes everyone a witness to an event as if they were actually there living it. After using the app I think it's fair to put Danfung Dennis with the likes of entertainment filmmakers James Cameron or George Lucas. Both filmmakers were visionaries who had to create their own custom camera rigs in order to advance filmmaking. And that's what Dennis had to do to advance his vision for the future of photojournalism. It's the proprietary camera rigs and software that Dennis and his team have created that allows them to record events like no one before. But unlike Cameron's and Lucas's movies these events aren't fantasy, and they have a very real and costly effect on human lives.
You can check out the gallery below and also this video to see how Condition ONE works, but you've really got to try it out for yourself to get the full experience. Condition ONE is now available as a free download in the App Store.