Digitally Stitching a Spherical Experience

Zoomed out 360 view of Papago Park in Tempe, Arizona.

Virtually Reality

From a film makers perspective, virtual reality/360 video takes away everything you’d imagine that’s behind a 2d camera: the camera man, the lights and even the camera. Virtual reality encapsulates the entire world around you and thus the viewer can look in every single direction; up, down, left and right.

Difference in-between VR and 360:

VR is an artificial world created completely on a computer. 360 takes the real world around you and enables you to engage with reality in another dimension.

VR/360 roll in the newsroom:

This was difficult for Journalism work because we had to hide from the camera whenever shooting. We would conduct interviews by hiding underneath the tripod. We masked the tripod out In post production. We had to tell our interview subjects to look into the camera an not the ground where we were squatting.

Journalists have always strived to take the viewer and readers to places they’ve never been before. VR and 360 does just that but on a whole other level.

My work:

One of my last semesters in college I worked on three projects for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication. The first was an immersive hiking guide app for people in the outdoors. We interviewed four characters about their involvement with Arizona’s natural environment.

We shot different angles on the hikes, the beginning, middle and end, so users can view what the trails look like, 360 degrees around before actually going to the hike. Additionally, we created hotspots within the app so the users can click on certain areas of the hike and view informational text boxes within their experiences.

360 video at “A” Mountain in Tempe, Arizona.

The second project I worked on was for the NCAA Final Four. In late March, the college basketball march madness tournament came to Phoenix for the Final Four. We were responsible for creating branded content for Coke, Enterprise, Capital One and At&T. We covered the fan events in 360 and day turned content for the NCAA facebook page. Our content received 10’s of thousands of views on facebook and got 15,000 organic impressions.

Branded content for Coca-Cola in Phoenix, Arizona during the Final Four Music Festival.
Recap of the fan events of day of the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona.

The third project I worked on was a documentary about light pollution in Arizona. We traveled all around Arizona to observatories and interviewed Astronomers, the head of the international dark sky coalition and Flagstaff night-sky enthusiasts. We had difficulty with capturing the night sky and light pollution with 360 video cameras so we had to rent out DSLR’s to shoot the night sky at a 30” exposure.

Under the Stars documentary shot all over the state of Arizona.

Virtual reality has altered the way in which we experience our lives. It places us in a world where we can look 360 degrees around from where we are standing and see moving video as if it were real life. These experiences have open up people’s perspectives and that is why I believe 360 cameras and virtual reality have a place in the newsroom. Many people are skeptical about the news today and need to see things for themselves to truly believe them. Virtual reality news has the potential to impact a lot of people more than regular news would. Imagine viewing a virtual refugee camp in Syria, with hundreds of refugees coming in from boats and getting medical attention once on shore. Viewers would be more impacted by the “real” experience as opposed to getting the filtered online news report. The value of this opportunity has a lot of potential to bring in big revenue. News corporations could offer a virtual reality section on their news site for readers to subscribe and pay extra to view that specific integrative content. Google has come out with Google Cardboard which allows a viewer to see vitality through their phone in a cardboard box instead of using the Oculus Rift set which costs about $500. The viewers do not need expensive gear to view the content so it takes away expensive barriers of entry. There is also a potential for virtual reality ads within the glasses before their “news experience” begins. Websites could also offer a sponsored “free virtual reality experience” on their main page of their site which is that would bring in a lot of web traffic and new readers. The future is bright for virtual reality, and I’m excited to see how technology becomes even more immersive in the future.

— sb