The Source, by Charity: Water

1 in 10 people lack access to clean water. Charity: Water is a nonprofit organization that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. Since their inception, they’ve funded 24,537 water projects for 7 million people around the world. Their documentary ‘The Source’ accounts the life of 13-year-old Selam of Ethiopia who spends every day trying to balance retrieving water for her family and attending school.

The intended audience were the donors, foundations and sponsors that cover the operating costs of the entire company. This ensures that 100% of public donations are used towards the water projects themselves.

The story used a ton of emotional appeal. Selam is a 13-year-old who has to help her family survive. Her mother died when she was 12, she has two siblings to take care of, and she also must attend school with the hopes of a brighter future. A future where her younger siblings do not have to decide between survival and school. The story documents the dirty, leach infested pond where she has no choice but to fetch water. The turning point is when they are provided with clean water and a well that is so close she can see it from her house. She no longer has to be late or miss school, her time is now her own. She can study to be a nurse.

The story was largely driven by her and her experiences. Like many other young girls in third world countries, her family’s survival is top priority. It was a unique point of view that included a beginning, middle and end. In the beginning, she was forced to fetch dirty water, in the middle her father informed her of a team coming to provide access to water (although they have been told the same thing many times before), in the end they got the water, and she is receiving the education she so desperately needs.

This story was appropriate for VR and I think especially important for the donors and future donors to this organization. Documentaries do well in VR because we know very little about the surroundings and actual experiences in third world countries.

As I was watching there were a few minor things that bothered me within the story, and with VR as a whole. Within the story, I felt like I wanted different angles. I wanted the angles to be more largely from the eyes of Selam. However, I also felt like there were sometimes obstacles in the way of the camera. As for VR, the medium, I would like there to be more of a walking effect. Instead of spinning in circles to look at everything, I want to have that feeling as I walk. If that makes any sense at all.

VR Story Review: Kobe’s Last Game

Two years ago we saw the end of a historic career in Kobe Bryant. This past December the Lakers retired both his numbers he wore in his 20-year career and to remember that occasion, the NBA YouTube Page partnered with NextVR as they showed another look of the historic night, his last game in the NBA.

What makes this whole special is because, on his last night, he scored 60.

The video gives a lot of emotion to a historic night but the video makes it more enjoyable as you see another look at those last moments when the Mamba is on the Laker’s floor. VR made this story a lot better, unlike an edited version. It gave you an inside look at what Bryant went through and the notorious shot that put him over the 50 and 60-point mark.

The camera position in all corners especially the real-life plays gave me goosebumps as I relived that night over in my head. During both plays showed, the quality gives it another ability that a regular video doesn’t give you. NextVR and the NBA’s partnership was a great move as they knew this would be the best night of the year.

Next, the editing of the piece showed a lot of professionalism and gave it another step on another edited video. As there were many times where It got stale, you could move around the Staples Center and eventually as you look behind you will find a piece of the arena blocked off. This was a weird side of things but brought more depth to the feel of the night, a night of remembrance. As you got bored of his speech, which was most of his video, you could watch highlights during his career and did he have many.

After winning 5 NBA championships with the Lakers, not showing highlights would have been a shame. This also gave me new ways to look at showing video in VR. Working with stories, overlooking a scenery can do so much but I caught myself on multiple occasions watching the amazing plays he had during his career.

This video overall gave a look at what VR can do in storytelling in sports. Can you imagine have a VR experience when Paul Pierce got his jersey retired? Or the last pitch in the World Series? And as you can see from this picture below, it is easy to hide these cameras and have no one interfere with the camera.

This isn’t the last time we will ever see the NBA use this technology but now we can have it for a fans perspective. According to the NBA Website, fans can experience the games in a headset with a better overlook of the game. On that same post made by NBA.com, here are the games we can see the NBA implementing VR:

Don’t be surprised when this becomes a normal thing. Having these different perspectives to the game of basketball, makes the games accessible to all.

VR is coming to the NBA with a bang.

VR Perfect Fit for CNN’s “Miracle on the Hudson”

On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing into the Hudson River at full capacity with 150 passengers on board. The frightful event made breaking news all over the country. Sully’s Flight Experience 360° by CNN and Warner Bros. presents to everyone else in the world a reenactment of what the captain and crew endured on that miraculous day, using a helicopter to capture stunning 360°video while flying over the actual GPS coordinates of the path taken by Flight 1549.

Multiple 360° cameras were used to provide viewers with an aerial virtual reality experience. The video begins with the look of clear skies and hearing the pilot’s testimonies of how the emergency started. It continues with real recordings of conversations between the pilots and the air traffic control tower as they decide what the appropriate state of action should be from there. When Captain Sully responded, “We’re gonna be in the Hudson,” you hear the confusion of the control tower agent as he asked for a repeat. From there, viewers are left to “brace for impact”.  I found this clip very appropriate for VR – it was definitely very experience-driven. It placed viewers into the eyes of Captain Sully as he steered the plane into the Hudson River in a state of emergency. The visual along with the audio allows viewers to get a sense for just how high the risk of this decision was for everyone involved. I personally enjoyed being able to watch from the back of the plane while making the U-turn as well as the plane’s landing gear nearing the edge of the water as it made its way onto the Hudson River.

CNN also added more to the emotional aspect by incorporating testimonies from real survivors of Flight 1549 as well as the various media coverage of the breaking news. Below shows an image of news reporting the voice of Mary Snow, a passenger of the flight stating that the “plane started filling with water quickly.”

Being such a well-made video, Sully’s Flight Experience 360° was tied to the release of the Warner Bros. movie Sully – providing inspiration for viewers to watch the movie and learn more about the historical event. It certainly left me with the feeling of wanting more. The video was posted on Facebook by CNN as well as YouTube later by Courageous Studios, with both platforms bringing over 4 million views. Sully’s Flight Experience 360° brought the film a lot of momentum with 3.9 million views just in the first few days and grossing over 240 million worldwide.

Hacienda Patron: The Art of Patron 360

Let’s take a look at the Hacienda Patron’s 360 video, “The Art Of Patron”, where you are able to experience a tour of the distillery where they produce and package their tequila. I decided to review this particular video because the use of VR in advertising is really on the rise and Hacienda’s use of 360 video does a great job utilizing VR to showcase their products. The idea of using VR to take consumers on a tour of their distillery was thought of by Lee Applebaum, Patron Spirits’ Global Chief Marking Officer. Through this video, he wanted to show off the brands tradition in an exciting and interactive way, a way that no other company has before. They created this video using the 360Heros H3Pro7 mounted on a custom made drone configuration.  Using the drone gave them the ability to capture an aerial 360 perspective from the Hacienda Bee’s point of view. 

The video, that was directed by Mark Kudsi, starts out with the bee buzzing through the field where you can see them harvesting the agave.  It then takes you inside the factory where they slow roast the agave for 3 days, Then it takes you into a room where you can see the roasted agave being pressed.  The next step on the tour, you see them fermenting the tequila in these massive barrels, after that, you see the tequila being distilled into their large, custom made copper pots. The bee then buzzes to the barrel room where they age their tequila in oak casts to bring out the subtle and natural flavors in the tequila.  The last stop on the tour shows the packaging process.  Here they package and wrap each individual bottle of tequila by hand. 

The use of the bee being the tour guide was an interesting one, I thought it made the experience a neat one because you can hear it buzzing in the background and the bee gave you more of a birds eye view of the distillery, which you would not be able to see if they filmed it from the perspective of a person on a tour.  The narration was necessary to the success of the video. Without a narrator explaining what you are looking at and the process behind making the tequila I think most people would have been lost, unless you are an expert when it comes to tequila.

This particular video was very appropriate for VR.  Most people in their lifetime won’t have the chance to go to Mexico and take a tour of Hacienda’s distillery.  This VR video gives you the experience of what it would be like to actually take a tour and see exactly how their tequila is made.  I very much enjoyed this video, the only weakness of the story was that it didn’t stay in any of the rooms longer than a few seconds.  You don’t have a long time to be able to look around and take in the entire space surrounding you.  The drone (bee) moves you from room to room, I like that feature, I just believe the video would have been better if it gave you a few more seconds per room to really give you the full experience of what their distillery has to offer.

Review of “Cliff Diving From a Rocky Ledge in Italy | 360° Video (4K)” By Red Bull

Link to the video 

The videos purpose is to showcase the Polignano A Mare stop of the 2017 Cliff Diving World Series that Red Bull hosts. The video puts you in the shoes of the divers, simulating diving off of the cliffs. The video also puts you in the shoes of an omnipresent spectator. Redbull’s YouTube channel has a dozen or so 360 videos, where they do similar videos to this one. Redbull is not a media company but they do host a lot of “extreme sports” that they look to showcase as marketing material. The intended audience I would imagine would be either those who enjoy “extreme sports” or those who may drink energy drinks, even though the event has nothing to do with energy drinks. The way that they story is structured is that it establishes how high the divers are in the opening shot.

Then it puts you in the perspective of the divers about to jump from the platform.

After that the video highlights the jumps themselves.

The video ends highlighting the impact into the water from different angles including underwater. 

This shows a narrative from the top of the platform all the way to the end of the dive.

The characters in this story are primarily the divers themselves. You do see someone in the beginning watching what is presumed to be a drone getting the establishing shots, but that seems to be a more of a blemish than an intended part of the video. The characters are the drivers of the story, especially as the camera seems to bring you from watching them fall off the cliff to putting you in the shoes of them falling off the cliff. Going back and forth between these perspectives is a great way to move the story along. There was no much emotion in in the piece itself as the divers tended to have straight faces. The only display of emotion was from the audience watching from afar. I would say that that the piece was largely experience driven as instead of watching the divers fall off the cliff, you were transported into their shoes and show what it was like to dive off a cliff.

I believe the piece was perfect for VR. A lot of people have wondered what it must be like to high dive or cliff dive when either watching movies or sporting events showing it and I think this does a terrific job of scratching that curious itch. The piece does not have any struggle or conflict, but it does do a good job of building tension, especially with the very slow rise of the camera up the cliff in the establishing shot. The only weakness I saw in the piece was the man watching the drone fly up the cliff as it took away from the feeling of being this omnipresent being and instead made it feel like someone was watching you fly.

Even with that I would say that this was the best 360 video I’ve ever seen.