Dipping into VR Journalism, 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.