Welcome to Contrast VR’s Weekly Blog

AJ Contrast
AJ Contrast
Published in
5 min readAug 14, 2017

Welcome to Contrast VR’s weekly blog, where we will bring you behind-the-scenes in our productions, spotlight interviews with prominent people in the industry, and introduce you to the members of our diverse team.

Our team: Zahra Rasool, Viktorija Mickute, Ousama Itani (Top Row, left to right), Joi Lee, Maria Fernanda Lauret, Abigail Morgan (Bottom Row, left to right).

This week, we kick off the blog series by introducing Contrast VR and how it all began. Contrast VR is the new immersive media studio of Al Jazeera, specializing in the production of virtual reality, 360 video, and augmented reality. Our team produces both premium original content as well as content with partners within and outside the Al Jazeera network, such as Nokia and Samsung.

In 2015, seeing an opportunity in the media space, the Innovation and Research department at Al Jazeera took it upon themselves to introduce VR and 360-degree video at the network.

Ousama Itani, Contrast’s project lead, speaks of its beginnings: “We worked on a shoestring budget at the beginning, designing and 3D-printing our first camera rigs in-house, and tagging along to other channels’ field deployments for the chance to capture an immersive story. We also worked on our VR chops and experimented by creating virtual spaces that can re-create a real locale or historical event. After getting our workflows, strategies, and equipment together and hiring on our editorial team member in 2016, we started producing in earnest. From there the team has grown and our output increased exponentially.”

Maria Fernanda Lauret, our video editor, working on “I Am Rohingya”.

Contrast VR officially launched in April and has already seen growth. Zahra Rasool, the editorial lead, has been overseeing and developing its numerous initiatives.

“We’re building this from the ground up. Since we officially launched in April, we have expanded our team to two producers, a post production lead, and a PR coordinator, all of whom come from very diverse backgrounds. We have finished two of our original virtual reality documentary films, as well as produced and published over 10 other short 360 social videos.”

For a closer look at what Contrast VR embodies, read more below.

Contrast VR: immersive media uncovering human realities

Building on the wider strategy of Al Jazeera, the Innovation & Research group has launched our latest new digital brand: Contrast VR. Along with being an immersive media studio, it is also a hub for expertise and collaboration on virtual reality content across the network, from 360 videos to augmented reality experiences.

Integrated with Al Jazeera’s worldwide operations, Contrast VR has access to real, powerful stories in regions of the world hardest hit by inequality, conflict and underdevelopment, and the medium allows us to virtually transport viewers to these stories.

“This takes storytelling to a higher level. As a viewer, you feel like you’re part of the story and are embedded with the characters and their experiences” Al Jazeera Presenter Dareen Abu Ghaida

The goal is to connect audiences who are using the latest VR tech with the people and cultures whose stories are most effectively told through this new narrative style of immersive media.

One of the first Contrast 360 video releases tells the story of a group of boys in Gaza who skate in the city’s rubble and alleyways, making the most of life under siege. That’s one example where we’ve used the medium to show how hope, vibrancy, culture and beauty can arise even in the most difficult situations.

New content styles

The Contrast VR methodology is to produce unique stories that allow viewers to experience meaningful moments. The strategy involves four primary types of content:

  1. Originals. High-end documentaries showing personal views of regional and global issues. Experiencing the story first-hand through our VR documentaries builds a rich, visceral level of emotional connection.
In the the undocumented slums that have sprung up around the UNHCR run camp of Kutupalong in Bangladesh, with estimates running anywhere from 20,000 to 70,000 undocumented Rohingya refugees. Our director, Zahra Rasool, and cinematographer, Alan Bucaria, filming for our documentary “I Am Rohingya” with the Nokia Ozo camera.

2. News. The team will equip and train journalists across the network to apply their diverse and courageous reporting in new 360/VR formats, but only when the story is better told that way.

3. Social. Meaningful, informative 360 pieces across social platforms that carry powerful ideas in manageable, shareable formats.

4. Live. Live 360 coverage that will transport viewers to important events and new experiences around the world.

Pushing the boundaries

Ultimately, the reason to produce immersive media isn’t to piggyback on a technology trend. Rather, it’s to create a stronger empathetic bond between stories and viewers. That bond leads to lasting impressions and deeper and more expansive impact.

Contrast VR can do this by pushing the boundaries of storytelling. We’ll apply Al Jazeera’s style and perspective to VR in a way the media world has been missing.

Visit the Contrast VR website to check out all of Al Jazeera’s best immersive content. We’re also publishing videos on the Facebook page so be sure to follow/like us there. You can also subscribe to our YouTube page to watch our content online.

Soon we’ll also be on mobile and desktop apps and VR platforms such as Oculus Store and Viveport.

Stay tuned for more, and tap the heart below if you’re interested in the studio and want to spread the news.

The Innovation and Research group (operating within the Digital division) at Al Jazeera Media Network explores the intersection of media, technology, and culture, through both internal research and its open innovation initiative, Canvas. Al Jazeera Media Network launched in 1996 and is headquartered in Doha, Qatar, transmitting from multiple international broadcast centres and more than 70 bureaus around the world. Al Jazeera strives to deliver content that captivates, informs, inspires and entertains.

Written by Joi Lee and Ousama Itani.



AJ Contrast
AJ Contrast

@AlJazeera's immersive media studio. VR/AR/360. Pioneering storytelling and technology empowering award-winning journalism. Email: contrast@aljazeera.net