Virtually Real 360˙ Video Shaping Up

With the advent of Virtual Reality version 2016, the world of journalism will probably never be the same again. Or at least if you believe the hype. But what is really going on in the industry when it comes to the use of virtual reality devices and other gizmos?

Here at frayintermedia we like to stay ahead of the geek-curve. At least with regard to hardware and core skills. We’re always thinking about what the latest trends are, and how we remain relevant without damaging our core services. This in itself is a balancing act, and one that we manage to get right. However, the larger media business is finding this a tricky balancing act.

Firstly, the small matter of capital expenditure. Many of these devices such as 360 cameras and Virtual Reality headsets are personal pieces of gear. They’re not made for industrial use. This has a number of problems in managing both the cost and maintenance. So if you’re in the business of doing news with all its streams, suddenly a manager has to build a new stream of both costs and training.

That’s difficult in newsrooms which have seen cost cutting. Many companies around South Africa have closed down their photographic pool or at least, thinned it out significantly. So how do you deal with the modern demand for more visual information?

One way is to partner with companies that have identified this future early, and have the capacity to deliver services to larger publishers. Our company is already doing this with multimedia which we offer to various clients.

The New York Times has already launched a virtual reality story telling application on both iStore and Google Play. It’s called nytvr. Go search for it if you don’t already have it. But be warned, the system is data hungry. Virtual Reality means a large file needs to be downloaded and at the moment is not an ideal technology for South Africans. However, as news storytellers, we need to completely understand that the newsroom of the future will no doubt have a VR component.

Secondly, the storytelling is vibrant, if a little clunky right now. If you experience bandwidth issues for a moment, the system crashes. But when things are stable, users are drawn into a world which most people would never see.

Virtual Reality means 360 video. We’ve been using 360 video here for a few weeks and can attest that the production process required is both fiddly and slow. These are large files. When we use our Ricoh to shoot 360, a 20 second video takes over five minutes to appear on your phone. That’s because it’s using its own Wi-Fi signal and is restricted to less than 10 mbs. So you need time in order to get this tool working properly. Modern newsrooms don’t have that commodity. Time is of the essence. So another reason for publishers to look outside for partners.

Thirdly, managing content rights is vital. Who owns the pictures developed by third parties? Are these co-owned? The use of social media content means some media owner are rethinking their use of service such as Facebook which has moved into publishing with some of its latest applications.

With social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter now accepting 360 video and a matter of time before Facebook has a zone for VR, there’s going to be a tussle again over who has the rights to display what on who’s inventory. In the meantime, we continue to service the requirements for multimedia clients across the world.

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