Image Credit: The New York Times

Student Series: The Rise of Trump in 360 Video

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 SHIRLEY NWANGWA

Donald Trump is the first American president to enter office in the VR age, yet he did not use it during or after the campaign. In all fairness, neither did the other presidential candidates from either party during the 2016 election season. Whether or not Trump will embrace 360/VR as much as his beloved Twitter remains unclear. Regardless, the media and citizens have documented his rise to the White House and the mounting public opposition in 360/VR. Here are some of the best (or possibly worst) moments politically and technically with candidate and President Donald Trump over the last year and a half.

The New York Times | Donald Trump Rally Election 2016

January 30, 2016 | Pre-Primary Campaign Rally in Florida

This election rally experience shows off the gilded face of Trump’s America — throngs of people, singularly willing to stand up for the promise of a renewed and improved nation. The arena is still and silent as a figure signals for the crowd to say “Amen” to end the opening prayer. Even a performance by young girls clad in glittery, American flag-themed, show outfits yields minimal applause. Trump finally comes to the stage, touting various reiterations of the now infamous “MAGA” slogan. His presence returns audible cheering, but isn’t particularly blaring. The clear, though tempered, feedback is positive when considering only the viewer’s ear drums. However, the lackluster response does little in the way of communicating raucous excitement, as conferred by multiple 2016 campaign rally videos. The camera seems to be mounted, making for stable and clean shots. This experience is also narrated by a reporter, lending character more akin to documentary than some of the other VR pieces.

TIME | Anti-Trump Protests at Trump Tower New York in VR

November 10, 2016 | Post-Election #DumpTrump Protests in New York

The protesters in this experience from TIME are met with armed police, who have installed gates to sequester them outside of Trump Tower in New York the day after the election. The videographer captures scenes from several vantage points, with smooth transitions in between and enough time to readjust to one’s “surroundings.” The experience begins in the middle of a mass of people near the entrance of Trump tower. You can see people all around, chanting in solidarity; the next scene is shot from a vantage point closest to the barricade, face-to-face with the riot gear-clad, NYC officers. People are heard jeering, some are seen pointing, and others just appear to be staring down the police. The next two sections of the experience are different and interesting. The first is shot from slightly above the crowd, while the last VR section positions the viewer below waist-line. When I pointed my headset downwards, I could watch the shreds of a torn banner adorned with “Trump,” slowly fall to the ground. I think that this shot is beautiful because it exhibits the instruments of protest marches, stand-ins, and the like: people’s feet. The camera was a bit shaky and it seemed apparent that the person hadn’t mounted their camera, but again, minor jostling as seen through a VR experience of this kind, adds more authenticity to the experience than it takes away.

International Business Times | Thousands Protest Trump Inauguration

January 20, 2017 | Inauguration Day in Washington D.C.

While watching this inauguration protest experience from the International Business Times (IBT), I feel I am at the event as an audience member. There is much action: people waving their signs and the armored presidential caravan driving down the street; and voices pushing their chants through the crowd. The experience displays a lively, multidimensional environment, and the high energy is palpable. A sharp contrast exists between the traffic directors, ushering in what is likely a daunting next four years, and a rightfully frightened public that is priming itself for the fight of a lifetime.

Technically, the experience has pretty good quality. There are obstructed shots in the stitches and the camera doesn’t seem to be mounted in a stationary fashion; as a result, the frame is a bit shaky. Contrastingly, this slightly dizzying aspect of the film adds more character to the experience: a person in the crowd is likely be jostled with the reverberations of crowd wide chants and the passionate presentation of anti-establishment signs, as cameras wait eagerly to immortalize such pivotal moments.

Cinema Productions | 360 Aerial Drone Video of Protest in Virtual Reality

February, 2017 | A Muslim Ban Protest in Arizona

This is an example of an overall bad quality VR experience. According to the description under the experience, this drone operator was attempting to capture a protest of the February 2017 executive order banning travel to and from certain primarily Muslim countries. Though the experience is an example of drone 360 video, an emerging branch of VR technology, it does little to inspire confidence in this specific application of drone surveillance. To make matters worse, the viewer cannot experience the event, as the crowd seems to be a mile away. The videographer has managed to make the viewer feel like more of a removed bystander than would a well-executed, regular capture video. The drone is suspended in air, vulnerable to anything from wind to whatever skill the operator has in keeping the robot steady. The result is a very unstable view of the street and various parts of the drone operator’s body. The quality suggests more of a drone test-drive experiment, than that of a purposeful VR experience; which begs the question: why post the video in the first place?

RYOT | The People’s March: Part Two :The Turnaround: Your World in 360

April 29, 2017 | The People’s March in Washington D.C.

This experience brings a more nuanced experience to the viewer. The previous experiences ask you to take the word of the protesters, as they verbally express their disdain for or support of the 45th US president. Whereas, The People’s March sets a stage, beginning with beautiful shots allowing the viewer to interact with the matter at hand: the very nature the organizers and many supporters are trying to protect. There is a story depicted in this VR piece, which makes it both evocative of numerous feelings and educational. There’s more planning inferred with the capturing of this experience. It is also much longer than the other experiences and contains both narration and a soundtrack. Some shots highlight the importance of protecting the world’s supply of water, but then, the experience transitions to clips of protest marches focusing on the entire spectrum of fights for human rights and equality taking place across the nation. The concept and phenomenon of intersectionality also plays a role within the context of these protests, alluding to the existence of intersectionality within identity itself. The climate march is seen to represent the continuous movement towards environmental justice, as well as justice for those who suffer at the proverbial hands of America’s political climate. The only critique I have is that when I point my headset downwards, I see the blurry floor plate which is more distracting than a tripod would have been.

The views and opinions expressed in this blogpost are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the those of Fovrth Studios.


Shirley Nwangwa is a reporting and research fellow at Fovrth Studios.

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