Dipping into VR/360 Journalism Waters at ONA 2016

Disclaimer: I am a total newbie to the VR/360 world, so I went to learn, find good examples, and get some ideas to launch from this recent conference. Here are five of my initial takeaways. These are really basic observations, and future posts, to be continued, will get into more details.

1. It's a Facebook vs. Google World

It seemed both giants, with many representatives at the conference, from "fireside chats" to the "midway", some high up, coddled to journalists because they wanted their 360/VR work inside their ecosystems. Panels, some of them "sponsored", tended to be either in the Facebook world or in the Google world, but rarely both.

The Facebook world seemed easier to get into, as long as you were in it for Facebook's feed basically. Facebook seems to somewhat "cook" views, so that can be added incentive, with your VR/360 videos quickly gaining a high number of views for whatever reason. The Google world had more of the advanced, open source feel. YouTube 360 videos tend to have a much lower number of views, begging the question: is the audience ready for this stuff?

2. The Best Tutorial Video is One Which Tells You What Not to Do in 360

The above video has lots of tips on what not to do, including having your host too close to the camera, or making sure you don't make your viewers seasick or feel like a plate of food. It also explains how every new shot needs to be given time so your viewer can explore.

3. A Video Everyone Raved About, Michelle Obama in 360

Not much story here, but basically everyone liked how the graphics were everywhere and almost perfectly curved into the 360 experience. Basically, much as text and graphics are big in current mobile video productions, they are even more necessary it seems inside 360 productions, since it's so hard to tell stories that way with just the video going and text is needed as crutch (it also helps to watch without audio during your meeting).

Here's an interesting article on the making of the Michelle 360 video and another on the Mettle website. Mettle seems to be what you want for 360/VR Production in Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro.

4. If You Aren't Ready for Headaches, Start Small and Simple

If you are afraid of higher end, cobbled together filmmaking options, this LG 360 came up at a few panels as a great starter option, just to experiment, and also to get good audio to boot. The bad, can you edit anything? Here below, though, is a really cool Red Bull Taekwando 360 video apparently shot with this $200 camera.

5. Explore 360 International with Ryot

In terms of international work, everyone was talking about Ryot, which is in the Huffington Post sphere. Here's a 360 video describing the shambles of Aleppo. Contrary to the Michelle Obama video, the audio, which is very well done with a dramatic narration, is key. Maybe Gary Johnson should watch and listen, and he might make it into the debates.

Stay tuned! Future posts will go into some of the nitty gritty of what I learned on VR and 360 at ONA 2016.

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