A new report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, virtual reality production company Secret Location, and PBS's Frontline details lessons learned from creating the virtual reality documentary Ebola Outbreak: A Virtual Journey.
The team discuss everything from choosing the subject matter to the equipment, shooting techniques, distribution and more. They write, "Virtual reality represents a new narrative form, one for which technical and stylistic norms are in their infancy. The authors of this report have concluded that some fundamental components of narrative remain massively important to documentary storytelling, whether in traditional media or VR. These are primarily characters, actions, emotions, locations, and causality. They need to be present and understood by the audience for the work to produce a satisfying and compelling experience. Likewise, audience members benefit from being guided through the experience—directing their attention and exposing narrative elements at the right time to keep viewers engaged, without their getting bored by having too little to absorb or confused by too many story elements introduced with no organization. Few journalists would be unfamiliar with these ideas. However, VR presents new changes and challenges around delivering narrative elements."