The story uses three-dimensional visualizations to retrace the rise of the global coronavirus death toll as it exceeded its 1-million mark: the x-axis represents the time variable, the y-axis shows different countries and the z-axis visualizes the counts of the death. Altogether, it shows mountains of various countires’ COVID-19 death tolls. The visualization style also features traditional Chinese painting style. Readers can understand the complex data by viewing it from a variety of angles and perspectives.
The project has attracted mass attention and has been highly recognized within the industry since its publication. It was invited to be exhibited at the 2020 ChinaVis Conference and won the gold medal in the 2020 China Data Content Competition.
Three.js: Creating and rendering visualizations. Building up the web animations between 3D and 2D data visualizations.
Shader: Filling background colors, creating a Chinese traditional painting style.
What was the hardest part of this project?
First, it is tough to build up the transformation between 3D and 2D visualizations. Although our main visual is 3D, 2D graphics are also keen on our storytelling. It can help readers interpret the whole project more quickly.
Second, filing colors while creating a Chinese traditional painting style is also tricky. The height of the chart represents the confirmed case number, and the color stands for the death rate. Therefore, besides making the image more charming, the color also enriches the content of our storytelling.
What can others learn from this project?
To be honest, 3D technology is not always the first choice for creating data visualizations. Many professionals would give warnings like “stay away from 3D charts.” Lucky for us, we manage to find a way to integrate 3D visualization into data journalism, not just for a better visual. The 3D visualization is also critical for readers to understand the meanings and stories behind the numbers. We can see more data journalism project would apply 3D technology to their visualizations in the near future.