I've been following the Life in a Day project for some time now, because it's incredibly fascinating to me. The project—a joint venture between YouTube and Hollywood producer Ridley Scott—asked YouTube users to film upload footage of themselves going about their normal daily routine, and aims to use the submitted videos to create some kind of documentary film.
They received a staggering 80,000 submissions, and in a move that's even more staggering… they've now released them online for the public to peruse. Not all 80,000 have been released, probably out of sheer logistics, but there are a ton of them up.
On the main Life in a Day YouTube Channel , you can now click on "Explore the Video Gallery," and you'll be shown a very slick globe-based presentation of several video thumbnails. It looks like this:
You can click any one of the thumbnails, and the video then plays in an overlay Flash window. There are also floating white-and-red keyword buttons, representing the various tags that users added to their submissions, and you can click on any one of them and the globe of thumbnails refreshes with clips sharing that tag. It's pretty cool.
Above the globe, there some other ways to filter the submissions. The Matrix view changes to a more-familiar rectangular grid of video thumbnails. Using the Geo-Tags filter switches things to my favorite view—an actual graphic of a spinning Earth, with thumbnails overlaid based on each user's physical location. It looks like this:
The Heat Map view is awesome too. Click the "play" button at the right of the 24-hour timeline and the animated Earth then uses colors to show you which countries were doing the most uploading of videos at all points along the 24-hour submission window.
There's a Compare option, that shows you two videos at once with opposite tags, such as happy/sad, or angry/lonely. It's interesting, but not actually a useful way to browse the submissions.
Finally, there's an option for Smile, which gives LG a little love for serving as the project sponsor by watermarking their smiley logo onto another "matrix" grid of thumbnails.
Life in a Day will be directed by Kevin Macdonald, with Scott serving as producer, and hopes to create a record of one day's "life" on planet Earth. It's ambitious in all the right ways, and could conceivably result in a boring, unentertaining film. Or it could be touching, poignant, and moving. It all depends on the footage they received.
And now we can watch that footage. What I like about this move is that it gives us a chance to peak at the raw materials Macdonald will use to craft his film, but still won't really give us any clear idea of how he intends to use them. It's like they're letting us inspect the bricks and wood and stone, but we still have no idea what kind of a house they intend to build.
However, I do expect a few aspiring filmmakers and YouTube users to try ripping some of this footage to create their own Life in a Day film. They've gone to great lengths to try and keep that from happening—you'll notice none of the videos opens in a standard YouTube page, and that there are no embed or share options, and there's not even a unique URL. So ripping these videos might be tough, but I wouldn't think it would be impossible. Who knows… maybe the next incarnation of this project will have users sharing in the editing and directing duties in addition to filming the raw footage?
There will be more videos added daily, as they are reviewed, so if the project is interesting to you there's reason to keep coming back to see what's new. I've skimmed through several of the clips and, as you might guess, some of them are interesting and some of them are not.
I still say this is one of the most impressive things YouTube has done to try and push the envelope on what their service can be used for, and it's pretty revolutionary in Hollywood terms too. It's a similar concept to the Star Wars Uncut project, only instead of letting fans submit video of a scripted and well-known film, they let the fans write the script for their own submission, essentially. It's still up to the director to cull the submissions and then weave the best of the best into some kind of narrative. Whether it flops or becomes an Oscar nominee, I'm definitely interested in seeing the finished product from this first-of-its-kind project.