Tag Archive for 'Vragments'

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.

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

360 stories I created with Fader

Our tool Fader allows users to create their own 360 stories very easily and fast! In the past weeks, I’ve been able to go to different events/demos/happenings in the city. I brought my 360 camera with me and created the stories on the spot.

Here you can see some pretty intense scenes at the I am Muslim Too Rally two weeks ago at Times Square.

Fader is designed and developed by our startup Vragments, a Berlin based Virtual Reality startup. Vragments is a team of technologists and journalists who are dedicated to bring new ways of storytelling to content producers by providing an easy-to-use VR tool.

You can find more information here:

Vragments project: Disfellowshipped

This story revolves around Debbie McDaniel, an ex-Jehovah’s Witness in McAlester, Oklahoma. With the 360 approach, we give the viewer a more intimate understanding of a character and her experience.

Visitor of our VR pop up studio experiencing Disfellowshipped. Photo credit: Trey Bundy

We have been working with the Center for Investigative Reporting on a first Fader use case. The outcome is incredible: A three episodes long mini VR series about Debbie McDaniel, a “woman with an extraordinary past.”

We were able to start working closely with CIR’s reporter Trey Bundy and senior supervising editor David Ritsher. Trey was working on an investigation into Jehovah’s Witnesses and child sexual abuse claims. This is the story, you can watch it on your Android device or on your desktop browser (try Chrome or Firefox).

Screenshot of 360 experience Disfellowshipped

The reason why Trey was interested in experimenting with an investigative story in VR is because it can

“give the viewer a more intimate understanding of a character and her experience. The technology allows us to put you in the reporter’s shoes, to feel what it’s like to sit with people as they look you in the eye and tell you their story, to visit their towns and the places that affected their lives. In some instances, it becomes a window into a person’s emotional memory.”

During a cold winter weekend in February 2016, Trey met with Linda and Stephan to begin exploring what by now is the 360° episodical Disfellowshipped. They were digging through text pieces, images and audio snippets and trying to align all that into a visual 360° concept. That proved to be a challenge that Trey more than once quoted to be like creating a movie while never having been to a cinema before.

You can find more information here: