Evaluating ‘High Rise’

If there ever was a digital pop-up book, “High Rise” is it. From the tiniest tenement to a glass cathedral in the sky, the New York Times’ Op-Doc “High Rise” takes viewers on an immersive journey through the history of the various places that human beings have called home over the past 2,500 years, all while using beautiful animation that imitates the traditional pop-up books of our youth. This stunningly interactive experience is designed beautifully and features four films that address different aspects of urban living arrangements over the years. The first three films are creatively narrated, in a rhyming cadence that keeps the viewer captivated, while the fourth film features a song that taps into the viewer’s emotions.


Three subsequent screen captures demonstrate the animation that was incorporated into still imagery to create a pop-up book effect.


Various Media Elements

“High Rise” incorporates a variety of media elements that charm the viewer with their animation and design. The most used media element is the animated photograph. The three-paneled photo above shows the sequence of a high rise building popping up within the photo. Occasionally the photographs are intertwined with videos and animation, but it’s done in a subtle way so that they experience isn’t overwhelming for the viewer. The story also incorporates engaging audio recordings, which draw the viewer in thanks to enchanting rhymes and emotive music. While the words within the narration often tell a somber story, the incorporation of the rhyme scheme, delicate music and elegant graphics keep the viewer from becoming glum.

Example above of animation – as the horse runs across the scene, the elevator rises.



After a brief introduction, “High Rise” follows a fairly linear timeline, beginning at the Tower of Babel and moving through time to the present. Navigating the timeline is a breeze with the progression bar at the bottom, which enables the viewer to rewind or fast forward to the beginning of each labeled chapter.

High Rise follows a linear timeline beginning with the Tower of Babel and continuing to present day.
The progression bar at the bottom of the screen allows the viewer to fast forward or rewind to the beginning of each chapter.



The navigation of “High Rise” is nicely laid out in a way that does not, in any way, confuse the viewer. The timeline is linear in most respects, but with occasional dead-end off-shoots, that allow the reader to go further in depth, without becoming lost in a maze of choices. The lines below the chapter title indicate that by clicking the option at the bottom of the screen, additional information is available.progression-bar2

When Hashima is selected, for example, the viewer is taken down to additional photos and text that further explain that individual chapter, delving deeper into each particular world.



Once the viewer has explored the further details of that chapter, though, the only option (at the top and bottom of the photo) is to return to the film, which picks up exactly where you left off, even if it is in mid-word.


This regulated interactivity enables the viewer to feel in control of the situation, without sacrificing the storytelling impacts with confusing navigation.

Overall, I was very impressed with the seamless and creative ways that “High Rise” used interactive multimedia, while still controlling the story line in such a way that the user’s experience is indeed what the creator intended.


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