News crews are experimenting with virtual reality (VR) applications to hammer home conditions in refugee camps and humanatarian crises, it was revealed in Monday’s ‘Blue Sky Thinking What Caught My Eye’ session.
Principal technologist BBC R&D Professor Graham Thomas told delegates how the corporation took a virtual rig into Calais recently to report on the refugee crisis, while Al Jazeera content producer Ousama Itani added that the network is currently “diving headfirst into VR. Certain news content benefits from VR coverage — it can be used to help audiences get a real sense of what’s happening,” Itani said.
Itani, who is at IBC to demonstrate VR footage that he shot for Al Jazeera current affairs show 101East, added that the broadcaster is fully committed to exploring VR’s potential. ���To fill in the gaps we’re designing and 3D printing camera holders and accessories to allow news crews to capture a fully immersive experience.”
Itani added that because many of the network’s viewers consume content via mobile, the VR footage has been made with smartphone users in mind. One of the most challenging decisions for VR crews will be editorial rather than technical, according to Itani: “Idenfying when to use it and when you think viewers need to be there.”
Other practical VR issues in news production include how to hide off-screen crew in a 360 environment and where to place the presenter, Thomas added.