2016 marked the hundredth anniversary of the National Park Service, an ecological treasure that is the cultural inheritance of every American. We partnered with Google to make five of the most fascinating and diverse parks accessible to all through 360° video, ambisonic audio, interactive modules and guided tours from real rangers. Accessible on desktop, mobile and Google Cardboard, it’s a celebration of the past, present and future of these spectacular public lands.
The five featured parks were chosen for their geographical and ecological diversity. We also purposely avoided the most popular destinations in favor of under-explored gems.
One of our biggest concerns during production was mobile performance. We estimated that more than 60% of traffic was going to come from mobile — a challenge for any site, but especially one so dependent on heavy video assets. Our development team experimented with various ways of compressing 360° video and found them all either too inefficient or too unstable, so we ended up creating our own. The fact that such a content-rich site can run smoothly on an average mobile connection is one of the aspects of the project I'm proudest of.
Google Brand Studio & National Park Service
Director of Photography
Official Google Blog, “Explore the Hidden Worlds of the National Parks”
TechCrunch, “Google Now Lets You Explore U.S. National Parks Via 360-Degree Virtual Tours”
Engadget, “Google Offers 360-Degree Tours of US National Parks”
The Verge, “Google Will Take You on a 360-Degree Tour of the Kenai Fjords, Bryce Canyon, and Other National Parks”
Travel+Leisure, “Take a Tour of 5 U.S. National Parks with Google’s New 360-degree Exhibit”
CNET, “Google Marks National Park Service's Centennial with Virtual Tour”
Curbed, “Celebrate National Park Service’s Centennial with Google’s Amazing Interactive Tours”
Popular Science, “Now You Can Explore the National Parks in Ranger-Guided 360 Tours”
Smithsonian, “Explore Some of America's Greatest National Parks in Virtual Reality”
Fortune, “Tour 5 U.S. National Parks with Google’s New 360-Degree Exhibit”
Outside, “Google Wants to Make It Easier to Explore the National Parks”
Pitchfork, “Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith Soundtracks Google’s New National Parks Videos”
Thump, “Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith Scored Google’s Tribute to the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks Service”
FWA of the Month
D&AD Wood Pencil
D&AD Impact Wood Pencil
Webby Winner (Web - Education)
Webby People's Voice (Web - Education)
Webby People's Voice (Web - Best Use of Video or Moving Image)
Awwwards Site of the Day
Cannes Digital Craft Shortlist
Communication Arts Interactive Annual
One Show Gold & Bronze Pencils
Communication Arts Webpick
Everything about this dream project was a highlight, but if pressed I'd say it was the moment Buchla synth wizard Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith agreed to score it.