SME 2018: ABC's Raj Moorjani Talks Immersive Storytelling
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Read the complete transcript of this interview:
Tim Siglin: Welcome back to this final interview here at Streaming Media East 2018. I'm Tim Siglin, contributing editor with Streaming Media Magazine and the founding executive director of the not-for-profit Help Me! Stream. Today, I've got with me Raj Moorjani from ABC News. Raj, what's your title?
Raj Moorjani: I'm the product manager at ABC News. I have a very interesting role there because I sit at the intersection of arts, and technology, and user experience, so I get to work with a lot of emerging technology and emerging platforms and how that works into storytelling.
Tim Siglin: How do you make decisions around storytelling in terms of the medium or the platform, because in the old days it was do you do it in print, do you do it in video, do you do it in still photography or film. Now, it seems like we've got 35 or 40 different mediums that you can work with.
Raj Moorjani: There's a lot of different mediums now. It's amazing. It's like the evolution of the space. If you're going back to just print, to radio, to photos, to now what was VR, AR, XR.
Tim Siglin: What is XR?
Raj Moorjani: XR is extended reality, so it encompasses augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality.
Tim Siglin: It's interesting because I've heard people talk about MRs, and now we're adding another R to the mix.
Raj Moorjani: The way I look at it, it's basically just part of an entire spectrum. If you look at physical reality of the space that you and I are in, that's one end of the spectrum. The other end is virtual reality which is a total digital environment that's created. Then in the middle you have augmented reality where you'll have digital objects in a space, in a physical space. Mixed reality is as an interesting combination of digital objects and real people interacting with that in the physical space of responding to those digital objects.
Tim Siglin: AR might be a heads-up display on the real world, where mixed reality could be haptic feedback bumping into something that's part of the working world.
Raj Moorjani: It could be part of some sort of feedback you get from a digital object residing in your physical space, but you still see the physical space and the digital objects living together.
Tim Siglin: Again, how do you choose the platform when it comes to a story?
Raj Moorjani: It depends on the story. One of the questions when we're looking at any of these emergent technologies and trying to figure out what is the tool we want to use to help enable these stories, is will this take it to the next level or is it just something that's we're trying to do as a gimmick. I think a good example is I helped launch ABC News VR about three years ago, and our first piece was this piece called Inside Syria where we took you into Damascus, and we had our correspondent follow a bunch of young archeologists protecting these Syrian antiquities from ISIS.
There was a Nightline piece and a World News piece, but then at the end of the segment, people were instructed to put on a headset and go to abcnews.com/VR and be able to then go to Damascus and experience that city for yourself. I think that's where the really true really cool thing about this is is that people who saw the piece on TV sensed what was going on there, but when you put on a headset, and you're transported to a place like that, it adds a level of presence and you feel like you're there visiting this place. You can develop a sense of empathy to what's happening.
It's completely transformative where you put the headset down and you're like, "Oh my gosh. What did I just experience?"
That's what's really truly unique about this new medium.
Tim Siglin: My first experience with immersive video like that was in 1992. I worked in the Department of Defense facility. They had a whole bunch of silicon graphics machines hooked up to a goggle system. We were using what ultimately became the iPic still camera, the solution that Bridge National Lives had. It was actually a video-based solution, but they felt it was too early in the game for the consumer when they did a tech transfer and licensed out from there, so iPics, of course, became what realtors would use for you to look around the house.
Jump forward now '92, so we're talking over 25 years, what's different now about immersive video that we can do this kind of thing and not have it be a gif?
Raj Moorjani: I think there's a few different things that evolved. If you look at Moore's Law and how processing power gets better and better, the technology has certainly evolved. The content creation tools like the 360 cameras or just the editing tools to be able to do that, or if you're using game engines to be able to create immersive content. That certainly has evolved from the last 20 years. It's become easier in a lot of respects to create that immersive content.
The other end is consumer. Now, if you are on Facebook or go to YouTube, you can experience 360 video right now. 20 years ago there wasn't a way to distribute that kind of content. That's just like our first step into getting people to be exposed to more immersive content. Then you see the headsets coming out. The Oculus Rift, HTC Vibe, now there's the Samsung Gear, but last week Oculus Go went on sale which is wireless, a standalone device that's less than 200 bucks. You can just put it on, take it off. You don't need any additional equipment or anything like that.
Making it easier for people to consume this content, making it cheap to consume this content is what's really going to help drive this whole space forward.
Tim Siglin: From a production standpoint, one of the issues, I was talking to Anthony Raffaele from Technicolor after the Netflix panel this morning, we were talking about how there was period of time where people would actually do 3D rigs to shoot 3D. Now all they're doing is shooting in 2D and doing a stereoscopic separation. Part of the reason for that was it was really costly and you needed technical expertise to do 3D properly. Do you find the same is true in terms of doing 360 video or immersive video properly from a news organization standpoint?
Raj Moorjani: If you look at news and how we look at news, you look at three different buckets. There's breaking news, there's live and special events, there's feature and documentary style pieces, and for breaking news coverage, handheld 360 cameras tend to do pretty well. You hold up the camera, you shoot, and then within an hour you can have something edited and posted on Facebook.
The more documentary-style pieces have longer production cycles because there's a lot of editing. There's a long of compositing work that needs to be done. You're dealing with 3D stereoscopic 360. There's additional elements to consider there, so it's a bit of a longer production pipeline. Again, it depends on the story you want to tell.
Tim Siglin: Awesome. Raj, thank you for your time.
Raj Moorjani: Thank you.
Tim Siglin: This ends our 2018 Streaming Media East edition of Almost Live. We'll see you at Streaming Media West in November.
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