“Virtual Reality: The next computing platform” says @tsmall55 #nydnlab


Virtual Reality aka “spherical videos” are the next frontier in immersive storytelling. By placing the viewer in a scene we are now a few notches shy of the Danger Room from X-men or the Holodeck in Star Trek.


The Daily News Media Innovation Lab hosted a presentation at the Microsoft offices in Midtown. The panel discussed the opportunity and challenges in the development of this new medium:


Tom Small of the Google News Lab mentioned that:
-200 channels on YouTube have done more than 20 spherical videos
The average watch time is between 2-3 minutes”VR is the next computing platform not just entertainment platform”

“I believe VR wants to be your point of view”

“There is a frame it’s just moving in a sphere.”

“Don’t abandon all that we know about storytelling…”
Your audience is the main character in the video, “the camera is a person, you have to treat the camera as if it’s a person at a place.” With virtual reality, “they feel the story more than watching it.”



Sarah Hill of consulting firm StoryUp Studios a company which she describes as a journalism social enterprise.
The “old way is that you’re outside the video… Well the new way is immersive video”
-Time spent watching is 5x longer than static frame video
-Frequency watched is 6x more than static frame video
-Likelihood of sharing 6x more than static frame video
-65% of VR will derive from video content

“You not only do you have to create it you have to distribute it,” right now that often means creating your own app. Otherwise you use platforms like YouTube360 , Facebook360, webgl or  webgr.
Spherical videos are “easy to shoot difficult to stitch” together.

Their methodology involves using “angled tripods not just on a stick” and helmet cams to name a couple examples. The challenge of conducting interviews was addressed by setting up the camera and monitoring from another room. Talking points are provided and essentially the guest “interviews” his or herself. It is important to keep in mind that when you create a VR experience you need a graphic designer to make titles and annotations in 3-dimensions. Software like skybox and metal are tools can be used to manipulate those graphics.

Paul Cheung of the Associated Press
A recent virtual reality project went awry, “the first time we did it was too fast, people got sick.” The speed and direction of the ‘way point’ must be considered when shooting.
“With Virtual Reality we have this belief that this is THE experience” but when using virtual reality as a device, it is important to ask, “Why would you want to turn around?”

Paul also asked, “What are the standards and ethical issues with producing VR?” When  or how do you make it clear that what the viewer is experiencing is a narrative or fictional setting or an actual place? In some cases, “seeing the camera is the right thing to do from a journalistic view.”

Right now, “most of the world is not thinking of storytelling in a 360 format.”
The goal is to “create quick experiences and simple experiences” because who wants to hold the goggles for 10 minutes?!

Marcella Hopkins is a freelance producer that worked on a virtual reality documentary for Frontline called, “On The Brink of Famine”


An audience member asked about sound, and whether it makes sense to go 3D along when working with virtual reality?

Marcelle – used 7 channels on her set and when she published it on YouTube, it only supported one channel. There are still some issues with infrastructure and support.

Tom – encouraged to “experiment and learn the media”

Paul – “Sound is something you cannot ignore. Sound will become more important in our narrative.”

Another audience member expressed concern about lighting, how did they manage to hide lights?
Marcelle –  tried “to use natural light. Use things like lamps that blend in.”

Sarah – “There are tools you can use in post… (To remove lights) Also what’s wrong with having the lights in the video?”



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