The New York Times will be publishing at least one 360-degree video a day as part of its ongoing experimentation with immersive journalism.
The news outlet launched The Daily 360 on Tuesday (1 November), an initiative that aims to integrate 360-degree video into the "daily news report" of The New York Times, Marcelle Hopkins, executive producer for 360 news, told Journalism.co.uk.
"The Times started the NYT VR programme last year, and that saw great success, but those pieces are longer form pieces, and magazine-type experiences.
"We wanted to figure out how we could use 360-degree video in the everyday reporting of The New York Times."
Since Tuesday, three episodes have been produced as part of The Daily 360, taking viewers inside the rubble of a hall in Yemen that has been destroyed in a Saudi airstrike, placing them alongside selfie-taking supporters of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, and immersing them in a crowd of supporters celebrating the recent victory of the Chicago Cubs.
More 360-degree video coverage of the US elections will also follow, including footage from the campaign trail and other issues surrounding the event.
Samsung is providing journalists from The New York Times with Gear 360 cameras and the equipment necessary to produce the videos from events happening anywhere in the world.
The videos, which range from approximately one minute to 32 seconds in duration, can be watched without any additional gear on the NYT homepage on the web, on mobile and tablet, and in the main NYT app.
One of the aims is to make 360-degree video production available to anyone in the newsroom who has an interest in this technology or who might have a story that could "be better told this way", so the organisation is training staff from reporters to photographers and bureau chiefs several times a week on how to use the equipment.
Hopkins and her team meet with journalists across the outlet's various desks and sections on a daily basis to discuss the news and feature stories they are working on, to see whether a 360-degree video component might fit into their coverage. Some Daily 360 episodes will accompany articles, graphics or other storytelling elements, but others will also be standalone stories.
"The scheduling may be dictated by what's happening that day, or it may be that we have an enterprise story that doesn't necessarily have a time peg, for example a 360-degree video that goes along with an article the business desk is doing.
"In that case, we will try to coordinate publication with them so that the two can be paired together."
The post-production process and how quickly the videos will be available on the web and in the apps can take anywhere between a few hours and a few days, depending on how much material is involved, or how strong the internet connection is on location.
In some areas, where the internet speed is too slow to send that much data, NYT journalists may have to mail a hard drive back to the newsroom for editing. If they are at the scene of breaking news and they are unable to send the footage through mobile data, Hopkins said a "mobile post-production studio" could be made available on site so that all the stitching and editing can be done quickly.
"We're going to be experimenting with what the best ways are to turn things around fast so that we are able to cover breaking news, planned events and fast-moving stories."
360-degree video is also good at conveying intimacy, so it can create a sense of intimacy with a place, an action or the people in itMarcelle Hopkins, The New York Times
The organisation encourages everyone to "keep an open mind to this evolving medium" and the stories and topics covered by The Daily 360, Hopkins said.
But from its previous experiments with 360-degree video, NYT has noticed it works best for stories that give the audience a "sense of place" by transporting them somewhere they would not be able to go, whether that's the scene of breaking news, a remote location or a private space that is usually inaccessible to the public.
"[360-degree video] is also good at conveying intimacy, so it can create a sense of intimacy with a place, an action or the people in it.
"That could be in the middle of a festival where you feel part of the party, or it could be that you're alone in a room with a celebrity and you feel like you know them, or you could be alone on a beach somewhere and get a sense of what it's like to be there."
The logistics of post-production are one of the challenges The Daily 360 might face, and Hopkins said people's lack of familiarity with 360-degree video is another.
But the format is still more accessible than virtual reality (VR) because it can be watched without specialist gear, so she is hoping the project will "introduce this new medium and this new way of experiencing NYT journalism to the audience".
"I think a lot of people still find VR inaccessible because they have to have [this gear] they don't have, and put it on their face.
"So part of our messages is yes, you can experience 360-degree video that way if you want to, but you can also do it in the way that you normally go to NYT homepage and it's going to be right there on your device, without any extra equipment needed," Hopkins said.
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