360 Degree Documentary Making

Journalism.co.uk has been reporting on VR usage in newsrooms and why it believes that publishers should take care not to be left behind as the format moves from experimentation towards more mainstream usage. Journalist Abigail Edge focuses on a recent presentation by Robert Hernandez, an associate professor at LA’s USC Annenberg School at a recent Hacks/Hackers Colorado meetup. Hernandez looks at the adoption rate for new technology and predicts a great future for VR as headsets become more available for a home use market.

The adoption rate of new technology is growing at “breakneck speed,” explained Hernandez, noting that it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users, while Facebook hit 100 million users in just nine months. Similarly, pre-orders for Apple Watch took one day to reach one million units sold. By contrast the iPhone took 74 days, and the iPad took 28 days.

Hernandez wants VR to bring enhanced emersion into journalistic storytelling but highlights the need to maintain journalistic values.

YouTube’s 360 video channel is already home to videos (of a variety of subjects and quality) that can be viewed in 360 degrees either with an onscreen navigating tool, such as this jet fighter experience, or with Google cardboard like this 360 degree comedy video.

However, Scott Stein of CNET.com describes how VR documentry ‘Clouds Over Sidra’ (made for the UN and launched at this years World Economic Forum in Davos) went way beyond exploiting a novelty experience for fun. His description of watching the film is written in the first person, as though he met Sidra the twelve year old girl who is the subject of the documentary who lives in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

Sidra began speaking to me about recent struggles, and her world. She guided me into the camp. I was in her room. Small, sparse, with a little TV. She sat on her bed, and I stood there, or hovered, a ghost in the film. I looked all around me. I looked at the door, and wondered what was beyond. Then I was looking down at her family next, in a small, shared space. I was taken to the refugee camp, the gym, a computer room where kids played games, and two boys turned around and waved at me, hugging. I was inches from them. Girls played soccer, and I stood in the middle of the field. I watched kids walking in a line, and they turned to stare – at me, or the camera, but it felt like they were looking at me.