It's a 10-part TV documentary series, an interactive Web doc, an online magazine and a virtual-reality experiment.
The producers behind The Polar Sea, which follows a trio of middle-aged amateur sailors on an ambitious and arduous voyage through the Northwest Passage, don't really care how people experience their investigation into climate change in the Arctic. But they are proud that the main attraction, the television documentary, is getting so much airtime.
The Polar Sea is being broadcast on TVO in Ontario starting on Monday. New episodes will air every weeknight over the course of two weeks. The Canada-German co-production involved five film crews working over the course of four months.
Producer Kevin McMahon, of Toronto-based Primitive Entertainment, said the idea was to look at climate change through the Arctic because it is changing faster than anywhere else in the world.
"Ten or 15 years ago it would've been impossible for me or you to sail through the Northwest Passage, but if you're an amateur sailor, now that's your goal. In a way it's become like the new Mount Everest, something people want to test themselves against," McMahon said.
The documentary series will also be available for streaming at tvo.org/polarsea. Borrowing a strategy from Netflix, all 10 episodes will go online on Monday for binge watchers to gorge on.
It was decided early on that the TV documentary would be just one part of the The Polar Sea story, McMahon said, adding: "We're trying to offer as many doors into the story as we possibly can."
Digital production company Deep 360 created an interactive 30-minute online companion documentary with a technology called 360-degree video. In a Web browser, users can zoom, pan up or down, or spin the camera angle around as the documentary plays.
"Everyone had this wish to create something on the interactive side in tandem with the series that would allow people to actually experience the Arctic," said Deep 360 founder Thomas Wallner.
"We never use the words 'climate change' in the story ever. It's about experiencing the Arctic and experiencing the changes through people's eyes, it's not about hitting people over the head with a heavy-handed message," he added.
The interactive documentary is also compatible with soon-to-be-released virtual reality devices, including the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift and Samsung's Gear VR. Early adopters of virtual reality will be eager to get their hands on content for those devices, which should expose The Polar Sea to new audiences worldwide.
"There may be an audience coming into this that doesn't necessarily care about climate change or the Arctic, but they'll be brought into it [by the technology]," said Wallner.
For those who want to go more deeply into the subject matter, there's an interactive online magazine based on the TV documentary.
McMahon said those who take in The Polar Sea – in any of its forms – may be surprised by how much debate there is about the future of the Arctic.
"Whatever will happen in the Arctic – whether global warming continues to undermine the subsistence culture, or whether it gives them opportunities to transform into a more industrial culture with more mining and oil wells and so on – all of that is going to be decided by people who live in the Arctic, or at least they're going to have a voice in it."