Immersive Storytelling: The Introduction of 360° video is changing the Journalism World
I must admit, prior to this exploration, I was not entirely sure what the difference between 360° video and regular video was. I figured if they are both being experienced by a flat screen then it must be the same, right? Well here is the basic definition of what 360° video actually entails:
" 360° video is a fairly recent technology in which omnidirectional cameras are used to grab a spherical video capture of a space, rather than the rectangular capture in traditional videography. The perspectives of the omnidirectional cameras are then stitched together to generate an immersive experience for viewers to experience, placing the viewer within the context of a scene or event rather than presenting them as an outside observer, and giving the viewer the ability to control the orientation of the scene and viewing direction. "
But there are different formats that 360° can be seen on: mobile, desktop, or headsets. 360° video, is a live action capture of a real world event or setting, without the need for a pre-rendered digital environment which is different than VR and AR. This technique though has been criticized for not be as 'original' as we may think. Historically, the dome/circular aspect in society has been seen again and again for our entertainment purposes. One example is Walt Disney’s Circle-Vision 360, which is still a popular attraction at Disney World which Umang Shukla discusses in his article on Knight Lab.
Shukla also explores the importance of 360° in journalism today, narrowing it down to three driven trends: production technology is cheaper/more accessible, ease of viewing, and increasing presence. But traditional video storytelling is being challenged by the very nature of 360° video.
We've all been told about taking videos horizontally if we are using our cell phones. But what are the rules for 360° video? Simone Kovacs questions the way traditional storytelling is being challenged today. The biggest one that struck me in her analysis was the differentiation between plot lines. Rather than following a linear plot line, "It is that lack of direction, that makes 360° so much more immersive," Kovacs said.
Similarly, the non-linear element means the editing and the pacing of 360° video is very different from traditional video. The b-roll has to be longer for the viewer to be able to take it all in, rather than short clips here and there which would just be disorienting (likely making your viewer click out of your video).
But again and again, a theme kept coming up: the director or creator is no longer is as much control of the story, the viewer is. There's no direction, the viewer can see everything. Meaning the viewer gets to chose what to focus on, not the director.
"When filming in flat video we control the frame and we direct the viewer. We shape the story by presenting a detail or an establishing shot or a portrait. In 360° video, the viewer sees everything in the frame and they control how they experience it," Kat Duncan, wrote for the Reynolds Journalism Institute.
So far this 360° is sounding pretty cool huh? Well there are also a number of reasons why not to do 360° video. Boundless narrowed down some questions a video creator should be able to answer before deciding what kind of video to make:
Is there a need to bring our audience to place to get a better understanding of why this story is important to them?
Will the location explain the what factor of the story?
How can allowing the audience enhance their understanding of the facts?
There are several factors when deciding if 360° is the best option but Knight Lab made a brilliant point that I had not previously thought of: Consider the ethics of 360°. "The fact of the matter is that today, many subjects in a 360° video will not realize that they are being filmed," the article said. Being in a Journalism Ethics class this semester it completely blew my mind that this could be problematic not just in terms of figuring out how to use it but how to use this tool ethically.
At the end of this little journey and looking into 360° video, I must admit, I'm not very impressed. Sure, it seems interesting and 'new' for journalists to use but I'm not awe-struck by it. As a viewer, I hesitate to watch 360° just because it gives me an odd sense of vertigo. Similarly, most of the time I do not feel more involved in the 'story' being shared. But perhaps I just have not experienced high quality 360° videos.