Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dipping into VR, part 3, Notes from ONA 2016, the Hype or Here Conundrum?

Some issues regularly brought up with journalism VR is that it's still too techy and time consuming to make or that there's not enough added value storytelling, to go beyond the immersion and initial wow factor, or even appetite from video consumers. Another video which was talked a lot about at the conference was Al-Jazeera going 360 at the Hajj. It has narration to add play by play and relevance. Videos with lots of people in every corner seem to do well in 360.

The Hype or Here Panel Experts

One ONA 2016 panel had the very catchy title of Hype or Here? The panelists were:

Moderator and always on the cutting edge Robert Hernandez, Associate Professor, USC Annenberg School of Journalism.

Jessica Lauretti, from HuffPost Ryot, a 360 / VR video journalism industry leader.

Jenna Pirog, Virtual-Reality Editor, The New York Times Magazine VR. She showcased the The Displaced about Syrians uprooted by conflict.

James Pallot, Co-Founder, Emblematic Group, which calls itself "one of the world’s leading producers of immersive virtual reality content."

Here's a video of a Ted Talk the Emblematic Group posts on its About Us page.

Keep it Short or Go Long?

The New York Times said they try to stay in the four to six minute range, but The Displaced is a full 10, so when the quality is there, there is not set rule. In class, Robert Hernandez said he works on vignettes with students, which then become the story anyway. Here's a behind the scenes video of working on a 360 project with students. In the video below, he says he believes VR, which has disappointed for decades, is finally here. He says journalists can be much faster than those working in the gaming industry for example to turn around content, even if at a less immersive and interactive level.

The Varied User Experience

The near mythical "user experience" as it's referred to in near scared terms obviously varies widely based on how the viewer watches the 360/VR video, and with what devices. So a video in a sense has to be tailored to a specific platform, or can be done in many versions. The editing process can be very slow, and it's important to add narration / reading subtitles / graphics to give the viewer more context, story and structure. Another example which was talked about was RYOT at the vigil for the victims of the Orlando gay club massacre (below), as a way to really give a sense of a crowded event with so much emotion. This one is short, but with a quote as its centerpiece, the result is very powerful.

Adding Context Through Spatial Information

The New York Times said VR can offer possibilities of understanding, whereby viewers can be in the space and make their own judgment such as this multimedia story concerning a Mexican teenager who was killed standing inside Mexico by a Border Patrol Agent who shot him from the U.S. side in Arizona.

360 or VR?

The above video, from another 2016 conference (NAB), goes into differences between 360, VR and even augmented reality. Despite articles such as this one calling watching a VR video with Google cardboard amuse-bouche, participants on the panel didn't really care about the 360 vs. VR terminology debate. This article has a really good graphic explaining the differences, with basically, VR way further into immersion possibilities and requirements than 360, which is best for newbies to begin with.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Dipping into VR, part 2: More Buzz from ONA and Around the Web

The project which seemed to be getting the most attention at ONA 2016 (which I attended and which gave me the impetus for this series), was the Guardian going 360 on solitary confinement with an extended trailer here. Any VR/360 project which is inside an enclosed space is easier to pull off in a sense, since the viewer experiencing the video can naturally feel as if backed against a wall. Being in the back seat of a car is another logical position to place your viewer.


An article from April 2016, in the New Yorker, gave lots of attention to the Wevr company, tagline "We make Brave VR". Above is a video tease to a meditation series they are doing with Deepak Chopra. Wevr doesb't seem to give away their work for free, though.


The New Yorker also mentioned the above Vice 360 production about the recent Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Here the voicing is key as well as giving a sense of space to each new location. For a serious story, this allows the viewer to control where they are looking as an added incentive to keep a story and their interest going.


No surprise, what is racy is always at the cutting edge of any technology and experimentation, and VR is no exception. Above the Sports Illustrated 2016 Swimsuit edition went VR, giving the viewer the power to scroll away from models to the empty part of the pool or the huts on the beach.


Lots of music videos are increasingly going 360, or at least having a 360 version to go with a flatty version. One notable example has the Canadian singer the Weeknd walking through an apocalyptic night, with explosions, trucks burning and comets falling from the sky, with to boot, some Eminem rapping (you can't go wrong with that). There is a distinct video game feel here, and video games of course are still way ahead of the rest of the industry in terms of immersive experiences and storytelling.


This video isn't 360 itself, but shows the possibility, for both the medical and educational fields, or combined, where VR and 360 are really being stretched and tested.

If you enjoyed this post, check out part 1 of this series: Dipping into VR/360 Waters at ONA 2016.


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