Presentation to the target audience

The target group

The final product is aimed towards the policymakers who are attending the WHO conferences in the capital city of Uruguay, Montevideo, from 18 to 20 October 2017. The goal of the WHO during this conference is to highlight the critical links between reducing premature deaths from NCDs and enhancing policy coherence across areas that impact the governance, prevention, management and surveillance of NCDs, as stated on their website. These policymakers are responsible for the policy framework of their government. The WHO wants to work together with them to get closer to their goal. The policymakers that will be participating during this conference include:

  • Heads of State and Government
  • Ministers of Health, Agriculture, Development Cooperation, Financing, Foreign Affairs, Planning, and Trade
  • Public policy decision makers
  • United Nations Organizations
  • Global experts and advocates
  • Non-State actors

(“WHO Global Conference on Noncommunicable diseases: Enhancing policy coherence between different spheres of policy making that have a bearing on attaining SDG target 3.4 on NCDs by 2030”, 2017)

Policymakers are busy people. They have many topics to deal with, meetings and conferences, much information to process and very little time. All these policymakers come from different background and are occupied with different things They are not experts on the area this project is covering and presumably not on the NCD program. Before creating policies they gather as much information as possible and listen to various point of views. Getting the information across clear is key, no long explanations and no ifs and buts. In short, this means one has to:

  • Present information in a short, easily digestible form
  • Use language that a non-specialist can understand
  • Summarize the information, and present clear arguments for a particular course of action

(FOOD SECURITY Communications Toolkit, 2011)

Awareness among policymakers

The main research question is focussed on creating a certain awareness among policymakers. To accomplish this, this term first need to be described in more detail. As written in short on the Research Questions page, the term “awareness” in this case means to show the policymakers what kind of impact policies could have on the people they are made for, on a personal level.

Jordan Jarvis said during a video call that the humanity is often lost during these conferences, since there is mostly a lot of talk about facts and figures during presentations. Approaching the policymakers with a personal story, showing them what impact policies they are working on can have on individual scale is a good way to go at it.

During the conference a lot of information from different sources will be given to the policymakers. To make sure they take notice of the video it needs to be approached right. According to the Economic and Social Resarch Council, one of the key points to bear in mind is to not just do what everyone else is doing, escpecially when on a low budget and tight time frame. The video will be one of many events during the conference, so the video should stand out. Having a 360-degree video is already something unique, but after watching the video they need to remember it. One way to do this is a more contreversial appraoch, according to a Skype call with Socrates. To get there attention and make the video stick in their mind, making them feel a bit uneasy would be a way to do it.

Presentation

Apart from creating the 360-degree video, it also should be presented to the target audience in the right way. The idea is to show this video at the conference. The audience should be able to watch it in 360-degrees with a VR headset and headphones to experience the video to its fullest. The conference has a programme structure where all the events are scheduled. Looking at the schedule and considering that the video will be a few minutes long, a lot of breaks are where one could watch the 360-degree video.

the-vr-cinema-opening-amsterdam-13.jpg

The next step would be how the video is going to be watched. As said before, watching it with a VR headset would be the ideal way to go. When looking at how other 360-degree videos and VR experiences are being presented today, there are some elements to use for this 360-degree video. For example, in Amsterdam the world’s first virtual reality cinema opened. There you can experience all sorts of 360-degree movies and experiences. The way it works is that you sit in a room with a bunch of other people on turning chairs. You wear the Samsung Gear VR with a Samsung Galaxy phone and some headphones on. There are four selections of films, each  being a show of roughly thirty minutes. (“The VR Cinema – Home”, 2017)

A similar VR cinema could be set up at the conference. When there is a break or free time, people could walk in and watch the video. To make sure everything works flawlessly there would be a couple of people to help set up the experience. Instead of watching the video alone on their own phone, multiple people can watch the video at the same time and talk about it afterwards and share what they experienced.

This would mean that VR headsets, phones and headphones need to be provided at the installation.

 

Zoom H2n Microphone

The Zoom H2n is the microphone I have used in several of my test videos and I already talked about it a bit in this post. For the purpose of this research a bit more of an elobrate description of this microphone will be given.

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As mentioned in the blog post that is linked above, the Zoom H2n is capable of recording spatial audio. This microphone has five built-in microphones and can record in four different modes. The X/Y mode is for natural-sounding stereo sound by covering a wide area while also capturing the sound in the center. The Mid-Side mode allows you to adjust the width of the stereo image after it has been recorded while it maintains perfect mono compatibility. According to Zoom, this is especially useful for film, video and television projects. The other two modes let you either record a 2- or 4-channel surround sound.

Using this device is quite simple. After you turn it on you put it in the desired settings. For spatial audio on the Zoom H2n this can be done in the recording settings via the menu, where you enable the spatial audio mode. This function is only on the device when it is updated with the right firmware, in this case it Firmware v 2.00. Onces it is enabled, it will be shown on the screen like below. When you have put it in the right settings you only need to press the red button below the screen and it will record a single four-channel, multi track WAV file. (“Zoom H2n Handy Recorder”, 2017)

Specifications

In the table below the specifications for the Zoom H2n camera are written down.

H2nSpecs(“Zoom H2n Specs”, 2017)

Spatial Audio

With the combination of capturing four-channel surround sound and Firmware v 2.00, the Zoom H2n can record spatial audio. To enhance a VR experience spatial audio is essential. It can control the viewers attention by having sound coming from any direction to provide cues to what is important to the story. It makes the VR experience more believable. Since you are able to look around in 360-degrees, you should be able to listen in 360-degrees as well. If you have a bird that flies around for example, the sound of the bird should move with it. When someone is in a VR experience and two elements are not in sync, the experience is disrupted.

There are some techniques to help guide the viewer through a VR experience with sound. Animating the position of the sound when its source is out of view helps the viewer to pinpoint sound more easily. This also works when you repeat a sound. The Google VR developers page compares this to the ringtone of a phone. A phone’s ringtone is not a single beep, but it repeats a certain sound. When you hear that repeated sound you know it is your phone that is ringing and where it is. (“Spatial Audio  |  Google VR  |  Google Developers”, 2017)

Why am I using the Zoom H2n?

The short version of why I am using this microphone is that it is the only microphone available to me that does what I need. Apart from that, I do think that the Zoom H2n is nice to work with. Mainly because of its clear and easy usability. All the buttons make sense, when I first worked with it I knew directly how to work it. The settings I needed were easy to find and change. When the microphone is in the right settings, it keeps it after turning off which makes it easy and quick to start recording. Putting the sound file in my editing software goes without any problems. The four channels are all seperated and easy to edit.

To conclude, the Zoom H2n is a very nice piece of equipment. The option to have record spatial audio in a single four-channel audio file makes it very easy to have good quality sound for a 360-degree video.

Samsung Gear 360 Camera

I have used the Samsung Gear 360 Camera in my test videos and talked a bit about the camera in this post. For the purpose of this research a more comprehensive description of the camera will be given and the reason why this will be the camera I will continue to use.

uk-gear-360-c200-sm-c200nzwabtu-000000006-tripod-whiteThe Samsung Gear 360 was officially released in the summer of 2016 and is Samsung’s first 360-degree camera. The idea behind the camera was to have a portable and easy to use device that could shoot 360-degree photo and video. This camera uses two 180-degree wide-angle lenses that shoot at the same time. Both the 180-degree recordings are automatically merged to a 360-degree image with the Samsung  Gear 360 Manager app on your phone or with the Gear 360 Action Director software on your computer.

Operating this camera is quite easy. Once you turn it on and put it in video mode you just need to press the record button and it records a 360-degree video. It is also possible to operate it with a Samsung Galaxy phone via the Gear 360 Manager app, if you connected the two devices with each other via Bluetooth. With the app you can switch between photo and video mode, start and stop recordings, change the settings of the camera, live view of the camera and playback your recordings. You also can choose to transfer the clips to your phone where you can trim and share them online.

A little tripod is included when the camera is purchased. Because of the small size of the tripod and it being positioned directly under the camera, it will not show on the 360-degree playback. Other tripods can be attached to the camera as well, but when a bigger one is used it will show back in the recordings.

Specifications

In the table below the specifications for the Samsung Gear 360 camera are written down.

Capture(“Samsung Gear 360 Specs”, CNET, 2017)

Pros and Cons

I mentioned this in a earlier blog post, but the first and most positive thing of the Samsung Gear 360 is how easy it is to operate. Apart from the easy to use buttons on the camera itself, you can also operate it with its own app on your phone. It starts up in mere seconds which allow you to record your surroundings very quick. The image quality is very impressive, especially considering that this camera is a consumer-grade 360-degree camera. The sharp price attached to this camera makes it one of the best cameras to pick when looking for a 360-degree camera.

Although the before mentioned app is great, it is the biggest drawback of his camera as well. The application only works on Samsung phones. This is an inconvience if you are not a Samsung phone user but still want to use this camera, of course. I also found that the lenses of the camera are quite easily at risk of being damaged, since when on a tripod or in your hand there is no lens protection. The app is not the only thing that works on limited devices, the same counts for the included editing software. The software only works on the Windows operating system and without the software it is quite difficult to get the recordings stitched. I also found that transferring recordings of more than a couple of minutes takes a very long time. This counts for the transferring files from camera to phone and for stitching long clips in the editing software.

Why am I using the Samsung Gear 360?

The things I like about this camera itself are already mentioned before, those do not need to be repeated, but they are the reasons why I use this camera. This  camera does everything that I need of a 360-degree camera. Another important reason why I am using this camera has to due with the limitation of this project. I do not have the budget to buy any camera I want, so I have to do with what Saxion has. Luckily Saxion has the Samsung Gear 360, because that is the camera I knew the most about before starting this project. I had seen this camera in action before and therefore was more prepared to use this one compared to other cameras.

Saxion has another 360-degree camera, the Kodak PIXPRO SP360 camera. As visible in the picture below, it uses a single lense that is attached to a block-shaped device. The lense has an angle of 214 degrees, which is quite the angle when compared to a GoPro’s 170 degrees. Like Samsung’s camera, this camera also comes with an app to control the camera. Unlike Samsung’s, this app can be used on iOS and Android devices, instead of only  Samsung phones. (“Kodak Digital Cameras | SP360 Action Camera”, 2017)

The reason why I did not choose for this camera has to do with a couple of things. First reason being that it does not record 4K, so it has a lesser quality than the Samsung Gear 360. The next point is that I noticed a black circle on top of the videos that it records, like the example video below.

These reasons were enough to convince me from picking the Samsung Gear 360 camera over the Kodak PIXPRO SP360.

Samsung Gear 360 (2017)

This year (2017) Samsung announced the new Samsung Gear 360. The first Gear 360, the one I am using, was designed to be mounted about anywhere by putting the battery and processor in between the lenses. This new model is build like most other 360-degree cameras. For the sake of this research, a small description of this new model.

Gear-360_Key-3.png

Looking at the specifications got people a little bit worried. This version has half the megapixels to work with, has a smaller battery and does not have as wide of an aperture as its predecessor. The lenses are now closer together, which would make the stitching of the two lenses together much easier and make the 360-degree recordings more realistic. It also can record higher resolution and higher frame rate video. With the higher frame rate it should make your recordings much easier to watch on a headset, especially when more intense motion is involved. It not only records 360-degree videos, but also lets you boradcast live. When you pair the Gear 360 (2017) with your Samsung Galaxy phone or PC, you can choose a platform to stream to and your are broadcasting live. This is a very interesting feature and from what Samsung describes also very easy to do.  (“Samsung Gear 360 (2017) vs. Gear 360 (2016): What’s different, what’s better”, 2017)

Compared to the older version there there are just little differences. The older version is still a solid camera and it is very useful that you can mount it everywhere. This new model has a couple of new features thar are very interesting to explore and experiment with.

360-degree video: conclusion

Although the content creation for this medium is still in ‘year one’, there are some things to take into consideration that make for a better video. After having done research on 360-degree video, some regularities have surfaced regarding those considerations. The 360-degree video should meet the following things:

  • Shots used in the video should be at least 30 seconds long. This gives the viewer time to understand what and where they are looking at.
  • Camera movement should be limited and only be done in with a consistent speed and direction. Too much movement could result in disorientation and even motion sickness.
  • It’s important that you take advantage of the 360 medium. Avoid having your audience looking forward the whole time because then you might as well be shooting regularly. Understanding why your story must be told in 360 is key to the process.
  • Think of the camera as a person in the scene and position it in relation to the subject in the scene.
  • Everything is visible in the scene. Think of what you put in and what not. However, gear and equipment can be removed in the post production process, but takes more time than when done in a regular video.
  • Avoid that the audience is looking at one direction all the time. It is a 360-degree video, advantage should be taken of that.
  • The viewer should be guided where to look by visual elements, actions and/or sound.
  • Since you are able to look around in 360-degree, you should also be able to hear in 360-degree. Unless deliberately chosen otherwise, such as a voice over or music.
  • Not everyone has experience with watching 360-degree videos with a VR headset, ease them into it. Building up the video visually and with the audio results in a more pleasant experience.

There are also some conditions that apply to this specific project. Since there are limited resources for this project, I have to do make do with what I have. This includes gear and locations. Saxion has two 360-degree cameras, the Samsung Gear 360 and the Kodak Pixpro. I will be using one of those cameras, since there is no budget for another one. This also counts for the gear that will be used to record the audio. The location, or at least the country, will be the Netherlands. This has the same reason as the others, there is no budget.

Looking at what the final video should be, there are some points that are already set. It should not be a list of facts and figures about what the NCDs are. Instead it should be a story that relates to the issue of the NCD program. The goal of the video is to make the policymakers excited to play a part in the battle against the NCDs. Therefore the video should be personal and connect to the viewer on a human level. This can be translated in either a positive way and, for example, show a system that the WHO is aiming for regarding the NCDs. Or a more negative/sad approach could be used and show the current situation of a social environment that has not the same opportunity as the previously mentioned one. A choice has to be made and I am leaning more towards the more positive approach. The reason is that I feel that a more positive and personal approach could make others more excited instead of showing all the negativity in the world, which you see a lot in the media and news already.

Things that most likely will not be included in the 360-degree video are special effects, CGI and other forms of heavy animated objects. That has to do with the lack of skills I possess on that front and the time to learn them.

 

360-degree video: how to make one?

More 360-degree videos are created and creators get more familiar with the medium. Because we are still learning how to use this medium, there are no real guides yet on how to make a 360-degree video. However, creators are seeing the similarities in their projects. Things like location, action, directing and camera movement are to keep in mind. So that raises the question, what do you need to take into consideration when creating a 360-degree video?

Shooting

The first, and most obvious perhaps, thing one needs to keep in mind while shooting in 360-degrees, is that you record everything around the camera. What you do not want to have in the final picture, you should hide. That includes people, equipment, props and everything else. So think of what needs to be in the shot and what doesn’t.

Positioning your subjects for a 360-degree video does need some thought. Since most 360-degree cameras use multiple lenses to capture the 360-degree video, you will see some stitching. When your subjects are placed on the stitchline, you will notice a disturbance, that is something that should be avoided. This also means to limit the action on those stitchlines. You do not want to have your subjects moving in those overlapping sections for too long.

Another thing that needs to be thought of when positioning your subjects is the focus. It is advised to keep your subjects at the same distance from the camera. This can be somewhat difficult to keep them in focus, especially when they move to close or to far from the camera. Something that could be useful is to draw a circle around the camera to act as a guide for the movement. (Evelyn Scheibli, Bold Content, 2016)

Lighting is an important part of every shoot. However, when shooting a 360-degree video it can get a little tricky. Because you can see the lights in the shot if you set them up. Of course, having the lights in the shot can be done on purpose when it fits the story or the location for example, but using natural light is also an option. This way you won’t clutter your shot with equipment, but you are dependent on the natural light source. Therefore the ideal place for shooting a 360-degree video would be outside, during noon, when there would be the least amount of shadow.

The position of the camera itself also needs to be right. Since this medium puts you in the video, you don’t want to be disconnected from it. That disconnection can happen when the camera is placed to low or to high, when this happens you take on the role of an outside observer. Having the camera on shoulder/eye height would be the ideal way, according to research in 2016 done by Vincent Smit, a freelance journalist and filmmaker. Felix Lajeunesse, co-founder of Felix & Paul (a VR production studio), explains camera positioning in an interesting way. In an interview he says not to think of VR/360-degree video as putting a 360-degree camera in a space, but to bring a person inside the scene. The viewer should be positioned in relation to the characters and environment. When done right, it feels like a better and more realistic experience. It won’t feel like you are restricted to your place in the scene and helps to take that frustration away that some people experience.

In traditional film it is very common to move your camera, only having static shots would be kind of boring. In a 360-degree video it work a little bit different. The viewer controls the angle of the video by looking around. It can be very disorientating to move the camera around. In his Ted Talk, Chris Milk says that camera movement is tricky, but when done wrong it can actually make you sick. But they found that when you move the camera in a constant speed and in a straight line, you can get a way with it.

Directing

The very first thing when you are starting a 360-degree video project is to think if the medium adds any value to the story. Jenna Pirog, VR-editor at the New York Times, says that some stories are better told with words, with a photo or a 2D-video. She thinks that the stories told best in 360-degree video and VR are stories where the presence in the scene helps the viewer to understand the story better. The viewer needs to get the feeling that he/she is there. You need to think of who the viewer is in the video. “How do you articulate the viewer’s presence inside of the piece?”, says Felix Lajeunesse. According to him, that is the essence of VR storytelling. It does not mean the viewer needs to be a character, but you need to have clarity what the point of view represents inside of the story.

In traditional film, a director is the one who comes up with the story and chooses the shots that tell the story in an engaging visual way. In 360-degree video, a director is more responsible for the construction of the story around the camera, around the viewer. They need to direct the viewers attention. This can be done with the use of action, sound or actors for example. Just like traditional film, the director is responsible for the visual storytelling that engages the audience.

Composition in film is how you visually arrange things in your shot. Which in traditional film is on a rectangular screen. In a 360-degree video you don’t look through a ‘window’ anymore, there is not a rectanglular screen when you make your composition. In 360-degree video it is “not a composition of frame, it is a composition of presence”, says Chris Milk.

Tamara Rosenfeld, content director at Bold, has some useful tips for 360-degree video creators. They sum up the basic things that need to be taken in consideration.

  • Keep in mind that the shots will last longer so you need to be prepared to work with longer takes.
  • Make sure you know where you want your audience to be looking. Even if you are not putting a specific shot on the screen, you need to know what you want your viewers to see. Be aware of what’s going on in all of the film’s sections.
  • It’s important that you take advantage of the 360 medium. Avoid having your audience looking forward the whole time because then you might as well be shooting regularly. Realising why your story must be told in 360 is key to the process.
  • Make sure that you are telling a story even if your film is a documentary. Never do your work without intention.
  • Always work with a cinematographer that you collaborate with well. If you must work on your own, make sure your rig is right for what you are aiming to do.
  • Upload a few versions to the 360 environment before choosing the final shot so you can see what that looks like in a 360 space first.
  • Pre-production is very important with 360 so make sure you plan as much as you can out beforehand.
  • With 360, there tends to be a very long depth of field, so keep that in mind as you shoot, but try to use your limitations to your advantage.

Audio

Recording sound with a 360-degree video shoot can be a little bit of an inconvenience at times. In real life you can hear where sound are coming from, it can be from the left, the right, perhaps the back. In a 360-degree video you also look around and expect that the sound is also ‘360’. Some cameras have build in microphones that record a “360-degree sound”, but the quality is not as good as when using actual microphones. There are microphones that can record ‘spatial sound’. Which is basically a 360-degree camera, but instead of recording a 360-degree image, it records 360-degree sound. In the post-production phase you can put those together and synchronize them. Usually those microphones are placed under or above the camera. The problem with this is you hear everything. When someone or something is far away, you don’t hear them that well. To solve this you could use a lavalier microphone, a clip-on microphone. You can easily hide them underneath the clothing that your actors wear. Now you can hear them clear and are more seperated from the background noise. Recording with a lavalier microphone is not spatial sound, but you can make it spatial in post-production. In software such as Reaper you are able to give your sound a location in the scene, so to say.

Post-production

Post-production is somewhat different for 360-degree video than it is for traditional films. After the director has chosen the shots he liked, the shots have to be stitched together to create a 360-degree shot. Stitching is when you are putting the edges of the shots over each other and make it look like a complete surface. With some cameras that is done automatically, with others you have to do that yourself with a special software.

Normally when editing a traditional film you put together a variety of shots in a deliberate order that fits the vision of the director. The first thing you would run into when editing a 360-degree video is that the shots usually are much longer, they are around 30 seconds long. In the edit you are still able to put several shots behind each other in a sequence. You won’t have close-up shots or wide-shots, since the subject is placed and moved away and closer to the camera during a shot. Jessica Brillhart, Virtual Reality-filmmaker at Google, says the editing process is like having a conversation with the viewer. You have to ask yourself how the viewer would watch the video.

After you have stitched and put your shots in the desired sequence, titles and music can be added, color grading can be done and possible mistakes can be removed. You could also remove people, equipment and whatnot, by filming the same shot without all those things in frame. Later in post-production you can put that over the parts you want to remove.

Before_And_After_Giff_Test_01

Conclusion

Creating a 360-degree video is different than creating a traditional film. There are just ‘a handful’ of people creating content. The creating process is slowly getting clearer, but is yet in an experimental phase. No one is an expert yet, even the “experts” say that. However, there are some general things to keep in consideration. The main one being to see the camera not as a camera, but as a person. You need to place that person in the scene. By experimenting with the technology, using the limitations to come up with creative solutions and just create content, we learn more how this medium works and how we can use it.

360-degree video: how has it been used?

Allthough 360-degree video is relatively new, it has shown it’s potential quite a lot. It has been used in entertainment, journalism, the medical field and more. It is a portal to another place, you can put on a VR headset, play the video and feel like you are somewhere else. So how has this medium been used so far?

Locations

One of the main ways 360-degree videos have been used is to place someone in a location that they haven’t been to or can’t go to. To show them how it would look like if they would actually be there. Cities, landscapes, football stadiums and even space are examples of these locations. The camera is placed in the location, sometimes on different places or on moving objects, and the viewer can look around. The idea behind this is quite simple, yet effective.

“Brands and entertainment properties should be focused on experiences where a user would want to know what it’s like to be in a unique situation or location,” – Jason Stein, CEO of Laundry Service, a social media agency. They also produced a 360-degree video where the viewer is placed in Manhattan, New York City during Christmas, on the famous Rockefeller Center skating rink to be exact. A pretty tame video compared to others, but a good example nonetheless.

Below some examples can be viewed. (to look around drag with your mouse on the video while it is playing)

Entertainment

The entertainment industry is huge. Music, film, games and everything else are made for the people to be entertained, escape reality for a while and have a good time. VR and 360-degree video is another medium that expands the possibilities of how we get entertained.

Film

One way on how it is used in entertainment, is as a promotion for a film for example. For the film The Walk (2015) they build an VR experience. The film is based on a true story of Philippe Petit who walked on a wire between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. For the VR experience based on this movie they let you experience how it would be to walk on wire that high. When you put the headset on you are on top of one of the towers and are able to walk a bit on the wire. They did this for the Playstation VR, one of several VR platforms.

Another film example is for 2016’s Jungle Book live action film adaption they made two 360-degree videos. In those videos you are placed in a part of the film, looking through, the main character, Mowgli’s eyes.

Gaming

The gaming industry is also working a lot with VR. Apart from all the heavy computer and console games that are out there, mobile gaming in 360 degree is also becoming more present. Since this research is focussed on 360-degree video, the heavy VR gaming examples will be left out. The difference between VR and 360-degree videos can be found here.

Mobile VR gaming is quite similar to 360-degree video. The biggest difference is that instead of it being filmed with a camera, it is designed and created digitally. One of the first examples that gained popularity when 360-degree videos became accessible, was a rollercoaster ride. Quite a simple concept, yet very fun.

However, that was more the first stage. It lacks story. An example what has more story to it would be Chair In A Room (one of my favorite). It is a horror story set in, you guessed it, a room on a chair. The first demo that you are able to play is in a small room, the lights go out. You are sitting in the middle of the room, on a chair. You have nothing but a flashlight to use. However the battery quickly drains, but luckily recharges. Everytime you turn the flashlight back on, another clue of the story appears in the room. The story gets darker and darker. This is a great way to approach the limitations of the medium. Since in 360 degree videos you cannot move around like you can in VR gaming, the devolopers of Chair In A Room decided to bound you to the chair in the room. This motivates why you are not able to walk around. Different from videos, these games do not have a timeline. You can take as long as you would like to look around.

Of course there are more games available and there are appearing more 360-degree/VR apps and games on the mobile marketplace with the week.

Music

Another way how the medium is used in entertainment is with music performances. Since the cameras are accessable to artists around the world, it is no surprise that music artists are picking this up as well. One of the first who used 360-degree video for a concert was the english rockband MUSE for their Wembley Stadium 2010 performance. Multiple 360-degree camera rigs were placed on the stage, on a website you were able to watch part of the performance and look around from different positions. The band did another 360-degree video for on of their songs from latest album, Drones (2015).

Another great example of a music video with a story is One Republic with their song Kids. Filmed in a single take with a choreography of over a 100 people, you can decide where to look and discover the story yourself. Watching it twice might result in paying attention to something else.

The medical field

Not only is 360-degree video a great way to entertain people, it has also moving towards the medical field. An example to start with are phobias. Perhaps you are afraid of spiders, maybe heights? With the help of VR and 360-degree video you can now confront those fears and hopefully overcome them.

“Facing your fears may be the best way to extinguish a phobia – but it’s easier said than done. Some psychiatrists even claim that exposure therapy, which encourages a person to experience a steadily more frightening scenario, is unethical, given the stress and anxiety it produces. It can also be highly impractical – a person with a fear of flying can’t be expected to buy a plane ticket on a weekly basis.

To overcome these issues, psychologists and therapists are starting to turn to virtual reality exposure therapy. Instead of boarding a real plane, a person can simply put on a headset and a pair of headphones that, together, simulate the experience.” – Jessica Hamzelou, from New Scientist, 12 March 2014

Similiar to previous examples mentioned in this post, during such a VR experience you are placed in a location. Only this time based on your fear. A room full of spiders for example, you look around and see nothing but spiders. Only these spiders cannot hurt you. Perhaps you have social anxiety, in VR you can be placed in a room full of people who all look at you and give you various reactions. Or you are afraid of heights, so in VR you are placed on top of a large building and after a while you fall down. Cristian Sirbu at the University of West Virginia in Charleston, is working on these programs. In an unpublished study, Sirbu’s team have found that exposure to a virtual reality environment does help subjects to overcome their fears. (New Scientist, 2014)

360-degree video is also used to teach and train doctors. Medical Realities is a group who is developing medical training products with the use of VR (among other techniques). The idea behind this is to reduce the cost of training and create a safe learning enviornment for medical students. A product that they are working on is called The Virtual Surgeon, which lets you oversee an operation through the eyes of a consultant surgeon.

Journalism

Journalism covers a lot of stories everyday. From politcal debates, economics to human right problems. Some of the journalism stories are positve and fun to read, others not so much. Most of those stories we read in newspapers or nowadays mostly online, others watch the news. But since a couple of years, those stories are being told in 360-degree videos. It puts the viewer inside those stories, you are there.

A war zone is never a place you want to be in. We hear and read the stories of the ongoing wars in Syria for example, terrible news. We cannot imagine what these people go through. But with 360-degree video you can. You can look around and see how those people live. This video below shows the situation in Aleppo, the first ever war zone captured in 360-degrees.

Another great example, which I mentioned earlier in my blog, is Clouds Over Sidra. Where a 12-year old girl tells about her life in a refugee camp. The video is co-created by Chris Milk, who I talked about before, and in colaboration with the United Nations.

There are many more examples of how it is used in journalism, but they key here is that instead of seeing these stories on tv or reading about them online, you can be there. Writing and describing how life is in a refugee camp and getting the reader to understand what it is like, is almost impossible. But showing them, putting them in there, having a refugee tell the story, you almost cannot get any closer than that.

Conclusion

As you can see, a lot has already been done. These examples above are just a few of many. The exploration on how to use this medium and in what way we can tell stories with it continues. The content that is being created grows rapidly, escpecially in the entertainment. More and more artists are experimenting with this medium and share their stories with the world. The next step is to see how the “regular consumer” will receive this medium.

360-degree video: what is it?

Film has been around for over a 100 years, starting with the famous first motion picture of a horse running from 1878. Over the decades this medium as evolved and developed itself to what it is nowadays. From The Great Train Robbery to Charlie Chaplin, from silent films to talkies, from 2D to 3D. We learned how to tell stories with this medium that capture the attention of the audience. For all those years of growth in film, one thing has stayed the same from its brith to now. A series of rectangles (projected) on a screen. So what is the next step in visual storytelling?

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360-degree video

Over the last couple of years a new medium has been developing regarding the next step in visual storytelling, it is called Virtual Reality (VR). Which can be seperated in two categories, “True” VR and 360-degree video. To learn more about the difference, click here. It is a medium that we are still discovering and learning how to use. But what is it exactly?

360-degree video is basically a video that records in all directions at the same time and when viewing the video you are able to look around in all those directions. These videos are recorded with special cameras with multiple lenses or a rig with multiple cameras. The footage of that camera is later “stitched” together, which is combining the recorded images to one whole image. Some cameras already do that themselves otherwise there are editting softwares that do that for you.

Once the video is recorded and edited, it can be viewed several ways. One could watch it on the computer and look around in the video by click and dragging with the mouse or by using the W, A, S and D keys or arrow keys (depending on what platform you are watching). The next step in watching the video is on your phone through the “magic window”, which is when you hold your phone horizontally and move it around to see different parts of the video. The most exciting way to experience a 360-degree video is by using a VR headset. Which is like a pair of glasses, it has two lenses where you stick your phone infront of. Now when looking around you it feels like you are standing in the video. And it is getting easier to share these 360-degree videos, with platforms like YouTube and Facebook that are supporting 360-degree videos now.

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Google Cardboard, one of the cheapest VR headsets

However, one thing that needs to be taken into consideradtion is that the quality is not as good yet as traditional film. Some 360-degree cameras might say that they can shoot at flat RAW or 4K, but once those images are rendered and viewed with a headset it doesn’t look that sharp, escpecially when moving around. Also when uploading to the internet (like YouTube or Facebook), the video file will be compressed. Which means you will lose quality compared to when exported directly to the playback device. So when watching 360-degree videos online, make sure to click on the maximum resolultion option.

Storytelling

360-degree video gives us the opportunity to tell stories in a different way. This medium opens a new world in storytelling, literally. You can step into another place, view the world with someone elses eyes and see things you normally wouldn’t be able to see. It is an immersive medium, you can actually feel like you are there. Someone who explains this really well is Chris Milk, a director and artist. He is a storyteller who is looking at the newest technology to get the audience more involved in the story. Now he is working a lot with Virtual Reality. He calls VR the “ultimate empathy machine”, because you feel like you are there, you are present in that world.

In his TED Talk The birth of virtual reality as an art form (July 2016), Chris Milk talks about how VR the last medium is of storytelling because it closes the gap between audience and storyteller. He says that VR fundamentally, moving past the spectacle and the hype, is a medium of human experience. “If cinema is this thing on a screen, literature is this thing on a page, VR is human experience in your consiousness”, says when talking about what kind of impact this medium has in this interview. Meaning that this is more than watching a film, it is the feeling of reality created by the input of your senses. This medium is allowing anyone, anywhere to let them experience something that they might never experience in their own life.

One of the current state of events is that the content is somewhat limited. According to Chris Milk, billions of dollars are invested in the hardware, but the content is not there yet. Some people mentioned that they could go through the content that was available to them and be done in a week. However, the “floodgates” are slowly being opened and content is dripping out with each day, escpecially since there are 360-degree cameras for the consumer on the market.

“We are at year one of the medium […] we are more learning grammar, than learning language” continues Chris Milk when talking about storytelling in VR. Right now you are standing/sitting still in the video, using only two senses, sight and hearing. But hopefully in the future you will be able to stand up, walk around and perhaps interact and speak. Not only does the language of storytelling evolve, but also the technical format is developing, allowing to develop the way of storytelling.

Conclusion

VR and 360-degree video are a new and promising way of telling stories. We are still learning the language of storytelling for the medium, but have already come a long way. The equipment is out there for consumers to use and content is being created everyday. With still quite some limitations, we are learning how to close the gap between audience and storyteller. One thing that is quite certain, is that VR is the next step in visual storytelling.

“We can only experiment, keep creating new canvases, keep painting new things on them”  – Chris Milk, 2013