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360 video in news: Not just watching, but experiencing

Charles Miller

edits this blog. Twitter: @chblm

We were in an anonymous modern campus in Birmingham for a conference. But by clicking a smartphone into a headset and strapping it on, several of the digitally uninitiated found themselves in the presence of a 12-year old girl in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.

Sarah Jones, deputy head of media at Coventry University was at the Digital Cities conference to talk about 360 video in news coverage. It was her headset that the newbies were allowed to try. They emerged blinking into the daylight and talked about it in a different way from ordinary film: “You feel as if you were actually there... you almost feel you can reach out and touch these people.” They remembered it more like an experience than something they’d watched. 

The video on Sarah Jones’s phone was Clouds over Sidra, made by the UN to support its campaign for refugees. Even without a headset you can explore the 360 effect when viewing the eight minute film on a computer, by tracking round with mouse or key movements.

So what does 360 mean for news coverage? On the face of it, it allows a more ‘authentic’ story to be told because the viewer can explore in directions that wouldn’t be available in conventional footage, as Sarah Jones explains: 

In the end, says Jones, once the novelty of the 360 experience has worn off, conventional journalistic values will reassert themselves. For news, it still comes down to stories, however powerful the technologies through which they’re told: