Look Ahead: How Journalists Can Use Fader to Produce and Publish VR Stories

Positive EnergyAlthough virtual reality has recently emerged as a viable new means of storytelling, it continues to serve as a confusing technology to grasp for many journalists.

After working with newsrooms on several VR projects for a little over a year, Berlin-based startup Vragments has created Fader, a tool that easily produces and publishes VR stories.

“We learned that journalists are still quite hesitant to experiment with VR and there are little to no established workflows within newsrooms,” said Linda Rath-Wiggins, co-founder and CEO of Vragments. “Only a few journalists really have any ‘VR skills’ so we wanted to create a tool that allows them to skip many of the uncertainties.”

Fader streamlines the process of producing a VR into four steps: upload, enrich, tell your story and publish. Though users can’t alter the content they upload, they can align it in different scenes and add layers of data on top of the content before releasing it.

Additionally, journalists don’t have to worry about any specific platforms, as the story is published in the form of a URL and accessible on both mobile and desktop along with a public or private mode option.

The idea of developing a tool to turn reporting into VR experiences was born back in 2015 at an event hosted by The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). Rath-Wiggins said she and her team conceptualized Fader in a manner that journalists are used to—going from scene to scene with a focus on narrative. The prototype is currently free to use through the Vragments website.

“We’re looking for journalists who are interested in using it and giving us feedback so that we can optimize the tool for journalistic work,” Rath-Wiggins said. “While immersive storytelling techniques have emerged, we want newsrooms to utilize this new medium by not having to focus on the technical challenges.”

+ASection.inddAs part of Google’s Digital News Initiative, Vragments will soon partner with Deutsche Welle and Euronews.

“It’s thrilling to work with two prestigious and highly respected media organizations and learn more about their specific needs in regards to VR productions,” Rath-Wiggins said. “There is a demand for tools to make VR feasible, which is why they are interested in using Fader.”

Toward the end of 2016, CIR provided the first case study of Fader’s value during their investigation into Jehovah’s Witnesses and child sexual abuse claims.

“The problem that Fader tackles is very important for VR—how to make the production process more responsive to the needs of journalists on a deadline,” said David Ritsher, senior supervising editor for CIR’s digital video production team. “While Fader is still in prototype stage, it already has capabilities that are valuable to VR journalists looking to do quick turn-around VR projects. The underlying architecture of the tool will allow more features to be easily added, so we are excited to see the tool continue to grow.”


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