Last week, we held our third annual VR Conference for Journalism and Documentary.
It is that one day in the year where narrative pioneers come together in Berlin. VR enthusiasts, journalists, interactive documentary makers, early technology adopters and other non-fiction storytellers meet to share experiences, seek inspiration and hopefully head back home feeling ‚virtually real‘.
We had an amazing line up of speakers, all focusing on what the latest developments of VR mean for journalists, storytellers and creatives.
Zillah Watson, BBC Commissioning Editor for Virtual Reality, is the author of Reuters Institute Report on VR for News. She offered insights into what lies ahead for VR in the newsroom. She pointed out that storytellers need to focus on experiences that truly add value to viewers, something viewers would not be able to get on TV. ‘WHY VR’ should be a question constantly asked. Furthermore, Zillah focused on the frictions that come with this new medium and how to possibly tackle them. Based on a study she conducted, current problems include hardware issues such as phones overheating and bulky headsets. In addition to that, social issues were raised, such as finding social spaces (fear of getting pranked). Lastly, content issues are also part of the problem, e.g. discoverability of good VR content is still challenging and a lot of times, people’s expectations are too high and they can only be disappointed when presented with a VR story.
Secondly, Florian Conrad, Lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences HTW, talked about spatial audio in immersive stories. Florian underlined that the topics evolving around spatial audio are still highly neglected. He offered very specific insights into the potential to guide users through the story in a genuinely immersive way. Florian used Stasi interrogations: Manipulated confessions as one case study.
Daniel Sproll came to the stage, blessing the audience with some sneak previews into his latest work (psst, we can’t tell :)). As CXO of realities.io, Daniel spoke about photogrammetry & non-linear storytelling to create photorealistic and interactive factual VR.
Our fourth speaker in the morning was independent UX designer Charles Ayats. He took the audience on a journey to discover VR examples from the worlds of animation, art, design and fiction, curated with 100% editorial freedom.
Following our four speakers in the morning, we had lunch and then went on to learn more about the Berlin VR community which is vibrant and becoming bigger and bigger.
The practical fun part began in the afternoon. Participants were able to choose form nine different VR stations to experience different VR stories.
Last but not least, Stephan Gensch conducted a workshop on A-Frame for storytellers.
What’s left to say is that I am thankful for all contributions. See you next year!
About the author: Linda Rath-Wiggins, PhD, is the co-founder and CEO of Vragments, a Berlin-based VR startup that creates VR experiences in collaboration with newsrooms (e.g. this German VR example with Deutschlandradio Kultur). Vragments is developing a VR tool called Faderwhich allows users to create and publish VR stories easily and fast. You can already sign up to try out the prototype. Vragments produced a first Fader use case in cooperation with the Center for Investigative Reporting.