Student Series: How 360 Storytelling on Women & Girls Creates Empathy
As part of the Fovrth Fellowship, we’ve launched a “Student Series” to explore what is working, and what’s not, in 360 video. These blog posts are their first impressions of the 360 landscape across various themes.
By ANNA WELCH
Women are disproportionately impacted by so many issues globally. We have assembled a round up of the best 360 experiences that capture the narratives in women and girls in the contexts of crisis and triumph in the developing world. The women in these videos vary in age and come from Niger, Rwanda, Lebanon — previously Syria, Uganda — previously Sudan and Senegal. These experiences show the range of storytelling capabilities available through 360/VR.
Women & Financial Independence
Produced by Jaunt VR, Women on the Move tells the story of Fatchima’s life in Niger, West Africa where the women of her village band together to form a savings group with CARE. Fatchima is confident her granddaughter Nana will have a better life because of the work the women have done and the trust they have in each other. Jaunt calls their 360 videos “cinematic,” which shows in the quality and production style of videos such as this one. The camera positions in this experience are particularly effective at creating a sense of presence, as if they are sitting beside Fatchima, rather than peering down at her. This video expertly utilizes fade-out transitions by strategically pairing them with the narration, forcing the viewer to focus only on Fatchima’s voice in building anticipation for the next scene. While all the experiences included here fit the “storytelling” theme, the narration style and shooting of Women on the Move makes it feel especially anecdotal.
Born of War
Almost a million people have fled famine and violence in South Sudan. Over 200,000 of them have ended up here, in a…
Women & Restarting from Crisis
In contrast to Jaunt VR’s style, CNN VR’s 360 videos feel less cinematic and more journalistic. Born of War focuses on the story of 17-year-old Blessing and how she fits into the fastest growing refugee crisis of South Sudanese people fleeing to Uganda. This is the only video out of the five included here that relies on a reporter to tell the story. The footage is less clear in this video — the stitch lines are more visible and the image is slightly blurry. But, because this video is not as focused on aesthetics and instead centers on telling a more “news focused” story this works. This video is unique in the way it uses real stories to humanize statistics. For example, we learn that 86 percent of the refugees are women and children — which is an impactful figure on it’s own, but it becomes even more powerful when combined with footage of Blessing and her newborn baby “War.” This video is a great example of how to respectfully honor individuals and their stories when covering human rights crises.
Women & Health Access
Another video by Jaunt VR, #UNBLUR Onesight has a similar cinematic feeling to Women on the Move. We learn the story of 43-year-old Salima and the three major changes in her life — the death of her husband in 2010, the fast decline in her eyesight in 2015 and Onesight opening the Ruhengeri Vision Center in 2016, providing her with accessible necessary eye care. This video is very effective in the way it uses on-screen text, sound, and human movement to properly capitalize on the capabilities of 360/VR. A good example of this happens at 3:46 when the camera is centered in the scene while Salima and her children playfully run around it. Simultaneously, Salima’s voice tells us how happy it makes her to play with her children. The consistent motion minimizes the appearance of stitch lines and the combination of Salima’s narration and the visual of her actually playing with her children is the perfect use of all of 360/VR’s capabilities.
Girls & Robotics
The New York Times The Daily 360 series commissions 360 experiences from journalists around the world, with a new one each day. Syrian Girls do Robotics is a 50 second clip of a two-day robotics workshop sponsored by Unicef our team at Fovrth Studios filmed. The goal of the workshop is to encourage girls to pursue careers in STEM fields and 450 Syrian girls from high schools all over the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon participated. This video is unique from the others in that there is no narration or interviews, only footage and on-screen captions. This shorter video shows that 360 content doesn’t have to be long to tell a story effectively. In this video we don’t learn any of the girl’s names or specific stories, but we see their focus as they work with the robots and their joy when one of them successfully completes a task. The context and reportage is provided in the supplemental reported piece for NYT’s Women in the World. The stitch lines are fairly visible, however the shots are well set up to avoid them for the most part.
A Girl & The Environment
The final video is Growing a World Wonder produced by The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, narrated by a young Senegalese girl named Binta who tells us she and her people are working to build the Great Green Wall, which will one day be a wonder of the world. Perhaps more importantly, the project is helping to restore water to the well and sustain the animals and people who live on the land. This story is as much about the land as it is about Binta herself, which is why the use of aerial 360 footage is so effective here. In contrast to Born of War, this video is the least “newsy” of the five, focusing almost entirely on the storyline of Binta, her Grandfather, and the land. This Time video gives much more information about The Great Green Wall project itself. Similar to #Unblur Onesight, this video has a promotional feel to it. However, it maintains integrity by focusing on how the project specifically affects Binta’s life and the lives of those close to her.
Although each of these 360 videos ranges in narration style, camera angles, length and theme each effectively tells the story of the women and or girls featured. Each video has differing strengths and weaknesses, however all of them showcase the power 360/VR has in making the viewer feel more integrated into the scene and thus more connected to the stories of women and the issues we all face.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the those of Fovrth Studios.
Anna Welch is a reporting and research fellow at Fovrth Studios.
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