City Sonic, a new Canadian documentary series, imagines an urban adventure perfectly tailored for the smart or iPhone owner.

Already into its first season, this series of location-based films pairs celebrated Canadian filmmakers with musicians to explore the places where past and present Toronto music scenes collide.

The shorts — which can be viewed online or in a recently launched iPhone app — comes with appropriate GPS capabilities, fulfilling a stroll-friendly street cinematic experience for a film series that's been screened at North By Northeast and the Toronto International Film Festival.


The Toronto music films are intimate first-person stories and play off the “you had to be there” feeling inherent to live music. So director Bruce McDonald tags along on a Massey Hall tour with Geddy Lee, who reminisces on his journey as a teen watching Cream “rock the joint” to Rush's own sold-out concerts there in the mid-1970s.

Or you can watch Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning — sitting on the bed of a Drake Hotel room in white terrycloth robe — speak on the Queen West cultural revitalization in the early 2000s, and his band's eventual success. If you actually visit the place where the film takes place, users can unlock additional content (like rare archival footage and extended interviews) by typing in a City Sonic site-specific code.

As we do the Foursquare “check-in,” it's inevitable that our entertainment optimizes for multi-platform consumption. Business Insider calls it the “best screen available model,” and predicts a soon-to-be augmented reality where iPhone apps unbundle cable television packages in providing our favourite shows and movies on-demand.

“We wanted to create City Sonic as a cross-platform series while still maintaining a whole cohesive experience,” explains David Oppenheim, the series' interactive producer. “By going across multiple platforms, it allows you to pursue non-traditional financing and revenue.”

For the next season, Oppenheim hopes that City Sonic will launch in other Canadian cities like Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. He also sees the series' app and mobile site include a Foursquare-like “leaderboard” for future events, concerts and contests that connects city music fans together.

Rea McNamara writes about the on/offline statuses of niches and subcultures. Follow her on Twitter @reeraw.

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