In this second of a two-part series, our lead experimenter with 360-degree video shares the type of equipment we use to produce our immersive stories and the ethics involved in framing them.
For the past year, we’ve experimented with 360-degree video, sharing stories and scenes from around the world, including North Korea, Brazil and France. We’ve covered political conventions, award shows and even summer symphonies to immerse audiences in events they may not otherwise be able to experience.
Many of our 360-degree videos have been produced by Nathan Griffiths, an editor on our interactive journalism team. I talked with Nathan about the type of equipment we use to produce our immersive stories and the ethics involved in framing them in this second of a two-part series.
How difficult is it to get started with 360 video? What equipment do you use?
Sometimes we only use a Ricoh Theta; other times we use back-to-back GoPro cameras or a Samsung Gear 360. We like the Samsung camera because it shoots in 4k and does self-stitching, which saves me a lot of time. (Stitching is the process of taking multiple camera angles and combining – or “stitching” – them together to obtain a full 360-degree view.)
I think particularly for breaking news and for a lot of planned projects, the gear is super light and easy to transport. When I shot the Chelsea video, I actually met up with another, more traditional videographer who was going to film a livestream of the initial press conference with police.
He had bags of gear and large cameras while I had a tiny tripod bag and a small camera. I ran around with it for an hour and there was no concern about portability in a breaking news situation (read our review of the Google Jump VR camera).
What are the ethics of being in the shot? Do you try to balance that with concern over whether someone will take the camera?
Particularly in a breaking news situation, I don’t see it as essential to not be in the scene. It’s probably better to be obviously in the scene standing somewhere rather than trying to hide and crouch down somewhere. That I think would draw more attention.
From a logistics standpoint, there may be theft concerns at times, but there’s also security issues and explaining to people – especially law enforcement – what the camera even is. In general, you’re always better off explaining, “Hey, this is my camera. This is what it’s doing.”
How has this experience been this past year traveling around filming stories and training fellow staff to work with 360 video?
It’s been great; I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do it. It’s been a learning experience and I think it’s been really fantastic getting to meet and work with staffers from all around AP who are really excited to be working in a new format.
And I’ve found that, generally, the people I’ve worked with have been really keen to get their hands on the equipment to experiment and explore. So it’s been a great learning opportunity and a great way to meet people.
Jake is the publisher of Insights. He previously covered college sports as a reporter for The Associated Press and helped design its multi-year strategic plan.