Macleay lecturer Tim Young explores Australia’s first 360-video.
Of all the emerging tools of journalism, 360-video offers the potential to do something few other forms of media can: to turn passive viewers into active participants. That is powerful, writes Tim Young.
As journalists and producers, we’re constantly told to multi-skill, to grab a hold of emerging technologies and use them to tell our stories better.
Journalists now have to be experts at Google searching and data scraping and using social media to find people and promote stories.
Within the huge shifts and trends, I’ve been particularly drawn to one child of emerging technology: the 360-degree video.
Everyone will at least have seen a few of these pop up in their feeds. They’re videos that allow you to scroll around and ‘look’ in any direction.
(Photo: Green Buzz Agency)
Back in 2012-2013, I came across a blogger from Canada who’d created a rudimentary rig which allowed him to film in 360. He’d plonked his 4-Go Pro unit in the centre of a basketball court in the middle of a massive dodgeball tournament. To my knowledge, it was the first 360 video ever made and published.
Freshly inspired, I set out to do a bit better. The dodgeball video had ‘holes’ on the top and the bottom, which meant that the viewer couldn’t really look up or down.
Armed with 6 Go Pros, a child’s building block and a packet of rubber bands, I created a camera rig that captured the full sphere.
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Tim's self-devised camera rig that ultimately captured the full sphere.
With it, I recorded the sights and sounds of Melbourne’s first White Night festival in 2013 and produced the first 360 video ever published in Australia (link unavailable in this country), years before YouTube and Facebook made the process easy.
At Macleay, students have access to a Go Pro Fusion camera and have used it to experiment with the technology.
At Macleay students have access to first-rate gear and equipment allowing them to explore and innovate in and out of the classroom.
I’ll be the first to admit that 360-video often comes off as gimmicky. How many of you can say you’ve actually watched one in its entirety? That’s what I thought.
Low engagement times online are not a unique problem for 360-videos. Viewership for normal videos is notoriously short, with the average ‘view’ for an online video sitting at around 4 seconds.
One of the main problems 360-videos have to overcome is content delivery. As of 2019, the best way to view them is on your phone, where at least you can tilt it up and down and spin around to experience the interactivity. Not bad, but not great.
360 Camera by Samsung
By putting your phone into a virtual reality headset, you can approach a level of immersion with the content, but the huge bandwidth requirements and poor image resolution are major drawbacks.
If you’ve ever played around with a proper virtual reality rig like the Oculus Rift or the Samsung Gear, the experience is far more immersive. Problem is, very few people have them.
Oculus Rift is an example of a virtual reality rig
Developers, though, are always trying to bridge these gaps and will no doubt make huge strides in bringing better virtual reality to our phones. And as they do, we should be there ready to provide our journalism on those platforms as well.
One of the ‘holy grails’ of online metrics for publishers is ‘engagement’. Though it can be measured in different ways, we’re constantly seeking to engage our readers and viewers.
When you make a 360 video, you ask the viewer to take control and have a look around. Guide them through an experience. Place them in the middle of a sporting event or amongst police lines at a protest. By doing so, the viewer goes from being a passive observer to an active participant. And that’s everything.
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Journalism at Macleay College
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