Three VR journalism reports you should be reading right now

Three years of experiences in VR journalism. Three years of countless experiments by journalists who are not afraid of trying out something new. Where does VR journalism stand in terms of technology, storytelling techniques and user expectations? Three reports, published in 2015, 2016 and 2017, tell the story of an exciting medium and its road ahead.

If you are interested in VR, maybe coming from an editorial angle or maybe you have an engineering background, you should know this: Journalism will be one of the key sectors that determine the (near?) future of Virtual Reality. Some journalists are excited about the endless ways of telling an immersive story, some want to put audiences into their protagonists’ shoes, others want to take them to places they have never been to. There is a lot of enthusiasm with regards to VR. However, there are also a lot of shortcomings: high production costs, little experience in storytelling techniques and almost no market penetration because, honestly: Who wants to wear these huuuge VR goggles?

If you want to understand more about the state of VR in media right now, look no further. Here, you can find three recent studies published about VR journalism.

2015: Virtual Reality Journalism (by the Tow Center)

This study, written by Raney Aronson-Rath, James Milward, Taylor Owen and Fergus Pitt, is going into detail about the production process by looking at a specific use case. From project design to distribution, you will find helpful information about the process!

2016: Viewing the Future? Virtual Reality in Journalism (by the Knight Foundation)

The report offers key trends in the business, including major technology players.

2017: VR For News: The New Reality? (by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)

This most recent study, written by Zillah Watson, is an in-depth look into newsrooms that have picked up this topic. Watson describes how media organizations are currently tackling VR, from production to setting up teams and in how far they have been able to generate revenue streams (spoiler alert: still much work ahead in that area).

Conclusions

Revisiting these three reports, they all cover different matters, so it certainly makes sense to go through all of them. In general, it seems a bit as if we are stuck. VR journalists are in the experimentation phase – still. This is an all too familiar early stage of innovative topic in media. It takes more time to elaborate, more time for media organizations to experiment (and please not only the big ones — where is local VR journalism?), more people to pick up goggles and more businesses to invest in VR.

My bet is that it’s worth diving into VR.

Fader: An easy to use VR tool

Fader allows you to create VR stories easily and fast. All you have to do is upload your content, arrange your immersive 360 files into various scenes, click publish, and you are done.

Fader allows you to create and publish VR stories. Add multiple layers of information to your 360 spheres, design scenes and tell your story. Easy, fast and web-based!

These are exciting times for us. We’ve been working on Fader for a few months now. So what do we aim for with Fader? Fader allows users with little or no VR journalism experience to create 360 experiences easily and fast.

With Fader, we want to specifically cater to tech-savvy users who can use their already existing content (anything from 360° videos/photos, but also text, audio, documents and content they find on social media) and arrange the content according to their needs, and then publish their VR story quickly.

This is how you create a VR story with Fader:

  1. Go to fader.vragments.com and sign up/ sign in.
  2. Open up a new VR story.
  3. Add a title to your VR story (top left corner) and get started within your first scene.
  4. On the left hand side, pick a media type you’d like to upload to your scene.
  5. Open up a new scene.
  6. Pick another media type you’d like to include into your new scene.
  7. Repeat until you finish your VR story.
  8. You can always preview your story by clicking the play button at the top. Use that preview URL on your mobile device as well. (Android only so far).
  9. Publish your story and share with your friends.

With the help of the second round of funding from Google’s Digital News Initiative, we will extend Fader into a VR tool that can be used by journalists within their newsroom settings. We will be able to cater to different journalistic needs by working together with two organizations: Deutsche Welle and Euronews.

We are looking forward to kicking off this second part of our project. If you have any questions regarding the project or if you’d like to be part of this somehow, let us know.

Vragments project: Stasi interrogation as a VR experience

Have you ever been interrogated? Are you aware of interrogation methods being used to get confessions? Yes? No? Have you ever heard of the REID method?

We just released our latest VR experience. In cooperation with Deutschlandradio Kultur, we created a VR experience about interrogation methods. We exemplified the issue by using original audio footage from 1989 of a Stasi interrogation. The case portraits Uwe Hädrich , the last person who was imprisoned by the former East German “intelligence”. So far, the experience is in German only. It is available as an app for Android and for iOS.

Screenshot of the interrogation room

In this immersive experience, the user is inside an interrogation room. As a secretary, the user can follow this Stasi interview in a passive role as a secretary in the room. Throughout the experience, the user will switch into an interactive mode, triggering further information about interrogation methods. The 3D interrogation room and objects inside that room are built based on original material.

One unique storytelling method I specifically like is the constant switch between passive immersive storytelling (following the interrogation) and the active interactions (triggering events by gazing at objects). That way, we avoided to completely re-stage an interrogation scenario and we were able to provide journalistic context to the story.

Deutschlandradio Kultur broadcasted two radio features on this topic here.

How did all this come about?

Deutschlandradio journalist Jana Wuttke came to us with the idea and we immediately took on the challenge. Jana was researching on interrogation methods and forced confessions and together, we developed the concept and the flow of the narrative.

The whole team met up frequently and discussed the latest versions

3D artist Jens Brandenburg and VR producer Stephan Gensch