The Full View: Virtual Reality Journalism

Imagine you are reading an article on Antarctica. Sure you can imagine what it’s like but you’ve never actually been there. Now imagine you put on a headset and all of a sudden you are standing on an iceberg, looking at the Antarctic glaciers. This is the very real capability of virtual reality.

Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment. On a computer, virtual reality is primarily experienced through two of the five senses: sight and sound.

Although seeming like something from the future, devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have made VR technology accessible to mainstream consumers. While big in the gaming world, VR technology has also opened a world of possibilities for a variety of industries, including journalism.

Considered the next phase of video journalism, VR has established a new form of audience engagement and encourages a deeper connection between viewers and the content. Through VR technology, viewers can be physically immersed in a story, expanding on traditional, narrative journalism.

Immersiv.ly is a London based company established in 2014, which creates and sells editorial content in virtual reality. They specialise in immersive, interactive narratives, which offer users a special feeling of personal agency and involvement where media is less mediated.

When the 2014 pro-democracy protests broke out in Hong Kong, Immersiv.ly used VR technology to capture the events demonstrating how VR can be a powerful news platform. Hong Kong Unrest gives viewers the opportunity to be physically connected to the events and have a better understanding of what it was like in Hong Kong at the time.

The film editor and interactive video specialist Edward Miller said, Platforms like Twitter and Facebook can offer instant news far quicker than larger media organisations can react. So I see news organisations moving towards the role of the analyst.”

“It’s this progression towards ‘slow news’ and long form, which I think will make content such as virtual reality a compelling way to provide extra value that users couldn’t get anywhere else.”

“Watching [Hong Kong Unrest] in a virtual reality headset gives the user a sense of what it was like to have been at the protests alongside police clashes, capturing small details that simply would have been missed with traditional fixed perspective cameras.”

Discussing and analysing the immersive experience of VR journalism for the first-person experience of news, researchers found that being in the specific place, believing events to be real and having a physical experience of a first-person participant in the particular events to be three major factors in virtual reality that could contribute to journalism that may potentially lead to greater audience involvement.

Many journalists are hoping to utilise these assets of VR technology to create a greater sense of empathy between audiences and stories. Particularly those in warzones and places that are not easily accessible.

Journalist Nonny de la Peña collaborated with the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2014 to create Project Syria for the World Economic Forum. Project Syria is a full-body experience that places viewers at the scene of a bombing in Syria and allows them to explore a refugee camp. The aim of the project was to create a realistic representation of the Syrian war from the perspective of everyday civilians. Conducting extensive research, the team pulled stills and frames from real video footage of explosions in Syria to create the VR setting. They also travelled to a Syrian refugee camp to capture footage and audio, which was used in the project to create authenticity in the scenarios.

Commenting on VR journalism, Peña stated, “Journalists will realize really fast that VR has a unique power to place viewers on the scene of an event—instead of watching it from outside—and that that’s a really powerful way to engage them emotionally. It’s also particularly suited to certain kinds of stories, where one significant event takes place in a defined space. People will learn fast that, ‘Oh, this is a story that should be told in VR”.

Virtual reality has given a new meaning to story telling by transforming journalism, not only for journalists but for everyone. We are no longer limited to only hearing stories and now have the ability to truly immerse ourselves in other forms of life. VR journalism will take us beyond our imagination and will change the way we see the world.

What’s Hidden: A family tradition

I asked my sister what was an event that our family loves, and she said Christmas. She said, “I remember waking up on one Christmas day and hearing some noises and I got really excited. I’m pretty sure it was Santa.”

We don’t have many secrets in our family but this is one that we hold close to our hearts. Having a 10-year-old sister who believe in Santa means the Christmas traditions in my family are the same as when I was younger. Each year she receives a reply from Santa, to the letter she leaves him along with the eaten cake for him and half eaten carrots on the front lawn for his reindeers.

The idea that Christmas revolves around Santa and all the family traditions that go along with that is not something my family is ready to give up. Even though my sister is now older than the age my brother and I found out Santa wasn’t real, we are trying to keep the tradition alive as long as we can, not just for her but for ourselves.

My mum hadn’t really given it much thought before but became quite emotional talking about the next phase of my sister’s life.

“If she was starting to question it and people were making fun of her for believing I would probably tell her but I don’t want to take that innocence and magic away from her before I have to. I think the day she does find out that Santa isn’t real will be a sad day. I guess we will still keep wrapping up presents and putting them in the Santa sacks, but the whole idea that you don’t need to put Santa sacks out anymore and there’s not that anticipation of excitement of seeing your faces the next morning when Santa delivers the presents will make it a very sad day in the family. Talking about it now I didn’t realise I would get so emotional but I guess it is the next step of your baby growing up and you don’t have that same connection with your kids as you do when they are little.”

Jean Racine said, “There are no secrets that time does not reveal”. It is inevitable that one day, the Secret of Santa will be no longer hidden in our family. When this time comes we will make new Christmas traditions that we will grow to love and cherish, but for now the magic of Santa will continue.

Tweets:

Emotional History Task 1


EMOTIONAL HISTORY TASK 1 – JRNL102

AUDIO REPORT: EMILY RITCHIE

INTRO SCRIPT: Driving in the New South Wales National Park is tricky even at the best of times. A snap decision put things into perspective for Rachel who learnt the true risks of being an inexperienced driver in bad weather.

IN: “When it was…”

OUT: “…there at all.”

DUR: 2.00

MUSIC: Maxence Cyrin – “Where Is My Mind”
(https://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/maxence-cyrin/id117052677)


REFLECTION

My emotional history audio piece tells the story of when my friend crashed her car driving down to the National Park during bad weather. It was her first major car accident and it occurred fairly recently so I knew the emotions she felt towards the event were very raw and strong. As mentioned in the lecture, it is important to find a talent who has passion and can convey their emotions very well (McHugh, 2016). My friend spoke very clearly and the audio I recorded was of a high quality as we were able to record in an empty room with the door closed.

By conducting an interview in the form of a narrative, whereby you have your subject tell their story “beat-by-beat” you automatically create narrative tension as listeners want to find out what happens next (Ira Glass, 2016). When conducting the interview, I gave my friend a list of questions to go off but encouraged her to give long answers and tell the story as naturally as possible. As a result, I ended up with a complete story with a beginning, rising action, climax, ending and reflection. While my friend gave me a lot of content to work with, her sentences often ended with a high rising terminal (Collins English Dictionary, 2014). Unfortunately this was something I didn’t notice until I was editing which made it had for her narration to flow. For future reference, I would be cautious to listen out for such vocal “ticks” and would try to get my talent to adjust their voice, in order to make editing easier.

Because there is such a specific and clear story to my emotional history, I felt as though there were many ambient noises I could use. Due to the story particularly focusing on the bad weather, I found a windscreen wiper sound effect. When played with the other audio, the effect sounded muffled and unrecognisable. I decided to not use the windscreen wiper sound as I felt it would be detrimental to the overall ambience of the piece. I chose to use a storm sound effect instead which consisted of cracks of thunder and a mix of light and heavy rain. This audio helped to set the scene of the story, as I wanted listeners to feel as though they were in the car with my friend as she was explaining the weather conditions and crash.

“[Music] sets mood, adds pace, underlines a statement and allows your material to breathe” (McHugh, 2016). My emotional history is a story about fear, regret and danger. I wanted the music I used to reflect these emotions without being too dramatic or cliché. The music I have used is a slow piano instrumental piece. It is predominantly in a low key with singular high notes. Having the music quite low in the background helped the overall flow of the piece and then by increasing the volume in peaks, these high sections were perfect for framing important details of the narrative.

By adding effects such as fade ins and outs to a combination of music and ambient sounds, the piece is transformed from an interview to an emotional experience. I hope when listening to my emotional history, listeners can empathise with the feeling of fear when being in your first car accident, as well as the different stages of emotion in the aftermath of the crash.

REFERENCES

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014, “High rising terminal”, viewed 29 August 2016, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/High+rising+terminal

Cryin, M 2010, Where Is My Mind, song, iTunes, viewed 27 August 2016, https://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/maxence-cyrin/id117052677

Free Stock Photos of Australian 2010, Mount Oberon Road, View from the road up to Mount Oberon, Wilsons Promontory National Park, Free Aussie Stock, viewed 27 August 2016, http://freeaussiestock.com/free/Victoria/Wilsons%20Promontory/slides/mount_oberon_road.htm

Glass, I 2016, Ira Glass on Journalism, Podcast, 11 August, Sydney Opera House Talks and Ideas, viewed 29 August 2016, https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/sydney-opera-house-talks-ideas/id640445035?mt=2

McHugh, S 2016, Lecture, Week 2, “Power of Sound Pt. 1: Thinking through your ears”, 1 August 2016.

McHugh, S 2016, Lecture, Week 5, “Layering Sound: The art of the mix”, 22 August 2016.


AUDIO LOG

TIME CONTENT – SUMMARY EVALUATION
0.00

0.22

Introduces name *Muffled
0.30

2.12

Explaining accident ***Clear and detailed
2.20

4.00

Aftermath

  • Telling her parents
  • Getting the car out
  • Parents reaction
**Clear but movement in background
4.05

4.33

“No…I’ve been in minor accidents…but this was the first time I’ve had a major crash” ***
4.42

5.28

How she felt when the accident was happening

“..I just had like a fight or flight moment”

** Clear but ends sentences on high rising terminals
5.36

6.31

Weather condition description

“..the rain was kind of like going sideways it was so heavy”

***
6.40

7.20

Tips for future drivers

“…being a p plater…I thought I was invincible”

** Clear but ends sentences on high rising terminals
7.25 Ambient noise of room