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How Using Virtual and Augmented Reality Helps Local Journalists Cover Syria

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“I swear we burned our clothes last winter to stay warm.” Saddam Hussein Al-Ghasi’s voice cuts through shots of a tent village outside Aleppo where he lives. As a 360-degree video, viewers can rotate their smartphones to change what they see and explore Joppkas’ canvas street, home to some of his 6.7 million internally displaced people in Syria.This story is just an example. the forefront of focus, Independent media agency co-founded by an award-winning photographer Khalil Ashawiis experimenting with storytelling from conflict zones.

Ashawi began reporting from Syria, submitting photos to news outlets and agencies such as Reuters in 2013. Five years later he launched his Frontline in Focus with his colleagues. It started as his Facebook page showcasing his work and then featured various articles. Country. Today, Frontline in Focus produces film and photojournalism from Syria and media for his clients such as Dutch broadcaster NOS and Swiss outlet SRF into storytelling in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Expanding.

The agency works with (and helps train) local journalists inside Syria, the country where most of its teams are based.Ashawi, co-founder and product thinker at Frontline, from Syria and Switzerland Hale Calaf spoke about how the agency is investing in immersive methods of telling human stories of conflict and crisis.

Laura Oliver: Your reporting is primarily focused on Syria, but you are working with your Yemeni partners to Libya that too. What story does Frontline in Focus tell?

Khalil Ashawi: All the news since the start of the war in Syria in 2017-18 [organizations] They talked about the battle and how it was going on the ground. I’ll cover a few, but I’ll focus on stories of human interest. Over the past two years, we’ve focused on one particular person who has something to say. [character-led] Talk too.

Banzai Carafe: When the war began, there was movement in the conflict, and the press was interested in these stories. There are people who have been living in tents for 10 years. We try to focus on the human side that is often neglected. For that, cat sanctuary Report of a man who can see the house from the camp because he is a stray and the front line but i can’t go thereWar is more than just battles and clashes.

At the beginning of the conflict, people liked the concept of citizen journalists. Agencies and embassies provided people with equipment to take and send pictures. But no one gave them any training, even though the outside world was the only source of information about what was happening inside Syria. But there are others who need attention and guidance. There is a need to build capacity for people who consider themselves journalists but may need specialized training.

LO: How can VR and AR storytelling help tell these stories?

power: Producing media stories using VR and AR technology is a new and innovative approach in media production that helps viewers break away from the traditional viewing of news stories and immerse themselves in the experience. Have you ever imagined yourself walking through the destroyed streets of a conflict zone? This is what we offer.

Hong Kong: A single VR or AR story can show more than a regular video. The viewer experiences more and puts himself in the position of the object. AR is an amazing technology. You can have a person in the kitchen or living room and talk about how his family died in a chemical attack.

power: Created a VR livestream to tell the story of a Syrian refugee camp, allowing journalists to converse with anyone in the camp with live interpretation. We also used this livestream to produce a story for Dutch TV. I am currently working on developing an AR project focused on storytelling for children in conflict and war zones. The project will use AR technology to generate over 30 stories.

LO: What equipment do you need?

Hong Kong: Equipment and editing are expensive. Some of his 360-degree cameras are $800, which doesn’t include the mic and cable. Some 8K cameras cost $4,500, so we’re trying to partner with manufacturers. Stories can take a long time and many resources. He had five people waiting to provide live translation of the VR livestream.

power: Editing for VR and AR is hard work. For AR, you need a scanner to scan the objects you want to see. Objects often have formal imperfections, especially for moving objects such as humans and animals. They are then exported to processing software and processed bit by bit until they are in the best possible shape. Then reduce the size of the object. This is because if the internet connection is poor, the objects will be displayed in a larger size than they can be viewed online. The final step is to link these objects to press materials using a software application and viewing interface specifically designed for viewing AR models.

Another problem in Syria is the internet. There is no Internet connection outside the home or office. So satellite internet is moving with us.

LO: What are the challenges for reporters, audiences and newsrooms?

power: I’m from Syria, so I’m worried about safety. Staff are provided with helmets, flak his jackets and safety training. Track where your correspondents are with a 360-degree live stream. If the connection is lost, there may be a problem.

Hong Kong: Security-wise, we always do a thorough assessment before sending someone anywhere. Also, citizen journalists often have good connections with their communities, but they need to explain to them why they are taking these photos.

power: Technologically advanced countries have access to fast and excellent internet infrastructure and a wide variety of VR headsets, so they will not face any problems watching such stories. Audiences in countries with poor technology and internet connectivity can use mobile phones to watch stories. We also strive to keep our stories small in size so that everyone can access and use them, no matter how bad your internet connection is.

Hong Kong: I think these technologies are the future. It happens whether we like it or not. Staying one step ahead of the game is good.

this mailbox first published by Reuters Institute Reprinted here with permission.

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Laura Oliver it’s afReel journalist based in England.She reports to the Reuters Institute for journalism research He holds a PhD from the University of Oxford and has previously contributed to The Guardian and BBC.she is co-founder freelance journalists associationis the global Slack community for freelance journalists.

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