Outernet: We Lit a Pile of Books on Fire


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How do you create a video that conveys the enormity of Outernet? An enormous library of the best digital content from all over the world - the notion is actually quite hard to grasp. It is also difficult to grasp the enormity of the problem. Saying that 35.5% of humanity cannot access the Internet, which is essentially a wealth of information - is such a cold statistic. Add on to that the fact that you need to make the video stand out amongst a daily bombardment of media. Hmmm...

So, we decided to light a pile of books on fire in what we hope will be the last book burning, well, ever.

We filmed the scene in an abandoned warehouse in Detroit. The guys at Motion Parade produced the final video for us, which we will be releasing next week. To see a preview, scroll to the end of this post.

The book burning would symbolize the lack of information access that most of humanity currently experiences. Outernet will reverse this trend and bring those outside the realm of connectivity into contact with anything they want.

The books will then burn in reverse, showing how Outernet will create this wealth of information out of nothing.

First, we spoke to the Detroit Fire Department and had them come over and inspect the site. They were aware of our work and were monitoring the phone lines in case a call came through. Several did.

Once we had all of the equipment and props in place, we had to arrange it in a pile and display the different material as representative of what can be broadcast and ultimately consumed over Outernet. In that pile we had: books (in multiple languages), magazines, newspapers, posters of art, maps, blueprints, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, DVD's, records, a TV, a record player, textbooks, film, sheet music, a laptop, several cell phones, weather forecasts, health manuals, and more. We spent several weeks collecting an extremely diverse set of materials to burn, which doesn't even cover all of the types of digital files that Outnernet could be used to disseminate.

However, before we could shoot the pile and its subsequent burning, we filmed the prototypes of Outernet hardware, which will replace the need to have these piles of books and other physical information, which is cumbersome to distribute globally compared to bits of data. We used several different cameras to film the various shots we wanted to include in the film. We used a Red cinema camera and a Phantom High Frame Rate HD camera.

Once we had filmed the Outernet hardware, we focused on burning different sections of the pile to focus on specific types of content being assembled out of nothing. Outernet will broadcast the necessary data from space to construct files of any type anywhere in the world.

Once we had filmed several sections of the pile - extinguishing each section as we went - it was time to douse the entire pile in gasoline and light it up. Motion Parade positioned several cameras and took the Phantom High Frame Rate camera to the second floor to film the lighting event from above.

Then, after hours of preparation, it was time to light the thing. Outernet's Thane Richard was standing a little too close to the pile when it lit and got a little singed.

We all stood mesmerized as the pile burned. For all of us, it was an emotional moment. Everyone at Outernet and Motion Parade is extremely passionate about access to knowledge and destroying this small pile of creativity, even though its purpose was to tug at the hearts of viewers and spread a larger library to every corner of the world, it still stung.

The results of this shoot were beautiful in their intensity. Motion Parade has done an outstanding job creating what is itself a piece of art. We cannot wait to share it with you. Until it's ready, enjoy this small clip.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://blog.outernet.is/2014/08/we-lit-pile-of-books-on-fire.html