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How to find the right stories for compelling 360° videos

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How to find the right stories for compelling 360° videos

Maria Mora | April 17, 2017
360° camera

ICFJ Knight Fellow Shaheryar Popalzai is one of the pioneer users of 360° video. In addition to working with Pakistan’s Express Tribune to help produce one of the largest 360° photo and video projects in South Asia to date, he has helped produce immersive stories for Dawn, the country’s oldest English newspaper, and Geo TV.

Popalzai, who has conducted online 360° video trainings and has spoken on the topic at multiple U.S. journalism conferences, recently spoke to IJNet on how journalists can brainstorm ideas for successful 360° storytelling.

He summarized the essential ingredients of a high-quality 360° report as follows: “Good audio, strong visuals and a really good story.”

The first step in the production process should always be having a strong story, and then making a judgment call on whether 360° video can help supplement that story, rather than searching around for a subject that could be shot in 360°, he emphasized.

“Look at the story instead of jumping in [with] the technology,” he said. “Give people the best of both worlds: give them the cool visual factor, and then give them the good story.”

Finding a story with a strong visual element means picking an environment and a character that supports the narrative, Popalzai added. “If you want to interview someone on a 360° camera, have them in their environment, where they are comfortable,” he said.

The need to scout out the right location and character is one reason why 360° videos are better suited for in-depth feature stories rather than breaking news. Nevertheless, Popalzai suggests that journalists should always carry their 360° camera, because you never know when you can get good visuals for a story.

Last but not least, it’s key to keep your 360° camera steady while shooting. “Have as much movement as you want around [you] in the scene, but don’t move the camera itself,” he said. “Use a gimbal or use a dolly with a gimbal to stabilize the footage.” Some popular brands are the Double Robotics 360 dolly and the Guru 360 gimbal.

Watch IJNet’s full interview with Popalzai below.

Shaheryar Popalzai, a digital journalist and strategist, has pioneered affordable, easy-to-produce 360° video projects with Pakistani newsrooms. Popalzai also has experience launching data journalism teams and using sensors as a way to generate new data for stories. Learn more about his work as an ICFJ Knight Fellow here.

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Walter

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