Breakdown of a 360 Story//Freedom Test Footage

Check out our Freedom test footage here.

I will now break down NYT VR’s “Walking New York” shot for shot:

Open Credit/Presenter over low exposure shot of flatiron building

Title (same background)

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Introductory text (same background)

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Med interview w/ JR narration

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Wide action shot photo shoot w/ JR

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Wide action shot planning installation

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Med Int with JR narration

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Wide of people working on pasting strips of photo

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Time lapse of gluing photo

Wide of people working on pasting strips of photo

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“run in” wide shot

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Wide, Daytime, people walking over the picture

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Med bike/moped shot

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Wide helicopter shot of JR photographing installation

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Pan out of window over photo installation

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Cover of NYT Magazine

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Election Content/TIL

Here are 4 of the 360 videos that I posted after filming at Hillary Clinton’s election eve rally in Philadelphia:

I also shared a 360 photo, appearing here in 2D:



What I learned:

  • It’s hard to connect to the Ricoh Theta camera in crowded areas. This greatly diminishes the utility of the mobile app. I hope to experiment with this further over my Thanksgiving travels.
  • Facebook is super weird – because I posted in an album, my photo didn’t show up as 360.
  • Get to events REALLY early if you want to get in. I would have liked to film inside the event, and by the time I got there the line was over a mile long.
  • The memory of the Ricoh Theta device is pretty amazing – we had probably 50 videos of 2-4 minutes plus a fair amount of photos.
  • Tripods are the best, but in chaotic situations it’s too risky to leave the camera alone. If we had left the camera in a crowded area, we would have absolutely lost it, either by theft or total destruction. Our alternative (holding the camera overhead) wasn’t great, but it worked under the circumstances.
  • Don’t be afraid to stick your nose (read: camera) into things – people who are arguing will be too preoccupied with that to wonder what you’re doing.
  • Walking alongside the line didn’t work out great – we wished we had a cart etc to allow smooth movement and I wished after the fact that we had committed to filming the entire line. It was just…so long. Nobody was going to watch a wobbly 30 minute video of us demonstrating the length of the line. With infinite resources, I would drive alongside the line as much as possible, then clip the camera to a helmet and bike up to the gate.
  • Proximity is key with this device. The further away something is, the poorer the quality of the image. So it worked really well with the people who were right up in each other’s faces arguing, but not as well with the scattered group behind Independence Hall.

2 VR Story Ideas

Here are three ideas we’ve narrowed our story down to:

  1. Investigate an abandoned (sold) school and tell a story of Philadelphia public schools
  2. Give a 360 historic tour of Eastern State Penitentiary (requires equipment permission)
  3. Give a historic tour of Philadelphia’s squares/city design history (Most accessible)

Our choice mostly depends on who we can get into contact with this week.

Scavenger Hunt Sequence

Here are some clips from our scavenger hunt, compiled into an edited video. Music from Creative Commons, full credit in YouTube description.

5 Election Coverage Ideas

  1. Lines at polling places
  2. What’s going on at campaign offices?
  3. How do people react to results at a bar
  4. On campus – people asking students if they’ve voted today
  5. White House Takeover Watch Party @ Tavern on Broad

Intro to VR

I watched the following stories (and more!) in VR with my nifty new Google Cardboard device:


This struck me as an opportunity to see a place I will probably never visit in my life, and in the process of viewing the video I learned that I am actually not allowed to visit Mecca. So that was interesting.

One great strength was finding locations where there was great contrast – like the shot where to one side is an architecturally impressive mall structure and to the other side is a KFC. Things like that really encourage you to look around – and the audio also explained what I should be looking for.

Pilgrimage gave me an opportunity to see a gorgeous city that I wouldn’t have access to in reality – that, to me, is what VR is for. It enabled an immersive and educational experience without the hassle, expense, commitment, or other limitations of travel.

The Fight for Falluja

My expectation was that this story was going to be one that I thought should have been written, but I was really wrong about that – the VR aspect made the shocking parts very personal, and humanized the displaced people outside the city.

The interview portion was strong because the location was visually interesting on all sides. That’s a challenge because if you’re accustomed to using a normal camera to frame a shot, you’re also used to excluding distractions from the shot. Here they actually contribute to the story, so it’s a unique case where that chaos is a positive.


This was a music video. It was really smartly done in that the action corresponded to the mood and the timing of the music. I felt myself looking around with the rhythm of the song because of how the story was structured. It was an interesting example of correlating the sounds, the visuals, and the movement. One thing that I hate is a VR/360 experience that changed shots before I have a chance to look around – this video gave me plenty of time to marvel at the virtual world, and rhythmically I felt like I was encouraged to look around at relevant moments.

Overall, I love viewing these. They all have a lot to offer. I honestly couldn’t think of many drawbacks for any of them. They do illustrate a variety of style choices – hard cuts from shot to shot were jarring at times, so one thing I’ll pay attention to in my video is leaving plenty of time to see things before they disappear and avoiding drastic changes in light, setting, etc except where that effect is used to illustrate change.

2 Ideas for a VR Story:

  1. Skating rinks/temporary parks and public spaces in Philadelphia. Pop-up parks are a fun part of the city and get people interested in public spaces and community involvement. It’d be fun to do this during the summer especially.
  2. A day in the life. We find a unique person – maybe someone who busks on the subway or someone who works in an unconventional environment – and we just shoot as much as we can of what happens to them all day.

360 Scavenger Hunt (and what we learned from it)

For our scavenger hunt we took about 30s of footage for each of the following categories:







Overall Lessons:

  • The back of the camera is not the front of the camera. The front of the camera should face the desired start direction. Oops. (all)
  • People will think this is weird and will stare at the camera. (food)
  • The camera must be very close to action/sound to pick it up clearly. (most notably, music)
  • Open spaces are pretty boring in this format. We totally should have stuck the camera in the bushes and risked a squirrel stealing it, because that would have been way more interesting than the statue we went with. (nature)

We’ll keep these useful experiments in mind moving forward.

Next Steps for TTN App

If we were to move forward with this application, we’d have a lot of work ahead of us.

We’d need to clear up some of the less obvious icons that we used in the app – personally I would choose different icons on the swipe cards because the star and the check mark are not immediately clear. I’d like to narrow those two buttons down to one anyway, because if we could program the app as desired we wouldn’t need a button to read instantly – you’d just start scrolling.

We would also improve our walkthrough at the start of the application. It doesn’t start automatically and you have to know which button to test to make it progress. It would make more sense if it was the first thing to come up the first time a person uses the app, you tap through to see an explanation of the functionality, and then it’s stored in settings incase a refresher is needed.

We’d also need to talk about the login screen. As discussed, that could turn away a lot of users right off the bat. My solution would be to start straight off with the walk-through of how the interactive swipe function works, which would move to and end with a highlight of the settings functions and suggest creating an account (with a clear explanation of benefits there are in creating a profile, i.e. predictive article suggestions, backed up “save” list, etc. etc.).

That way, users already see what they’re getting. They don’t feel like they’re committing to something unknown. They understand the pros/cons and can choose to make a profile or not without it affecting their use (to a point)

Finally, I would like to implement the previously ditched “shuffle” feature in the form of “Throwback” cards. Every once in a while, you get a throwback card instead of a card with a new story. A throwback card is the same as any other – you can read it instantly by scrolling, swipe right to save for later, or swipe left to toss it; but instead of a recent news story it’s a story from the archives that, based on interests and use habits, the person using the app might find interesting. People love nostalgia. And just incase, we could design it so that this feature could be shut off in the settings page.

We’d love to see this idea of a “tinder for news” take off, so we are considering entering the idea in entrepreneurial competitions at the Fox School of Business. Such a design could be used as a shell for all kinds of news orgs to use, to draw younger readers with an interactive and familiar experience that also keeps them informed of the latest news in their area or on their favorite subjects, depending on who was using the design.


Here’s our slideshow as it was for our presentation.

We also had a script.

We learned a ton from this presentation. The big takeaway for me was that expectations weren’t exactly as I thought; we were trying really hard to create a complete app, where everything was functional. In reality, we should have had that as our secondary goal with a primary focus on showing off the idea/features of the prototype.

We should have included a walkthrough and shown the audience exactly what we wanted them to see, instead of handing them the app and giving them so much freedom and so little direction.

In the near future there may be a post of an updated presentation with a walkthrough.


Results of the Focus Group

We were pretty surprised by some of the responses to our prototype, and found them very useful in creating a new design.

Here’s our initial home screen:


We intentionally created feeds modeled after social media sites (facebook, instagram, twitter, L-R in top menu). Additionally we offered a shuffle feature, which is like StumbleUpon, and offers a random Temple News article from the time range of your customizable choice (latest issue, latest edition, all archives).

Users felt that these feeds all offered essentially similar experiences, and that they weren’t very useful. They preferred our sidebar menu (accessible via hamburger button) which allowed them to find topic-specific information and to choose how they wanted to consume news (read, watch, listen).

They weren’t impressed with our design, calling it “90’s-esque,” and they all agreed that the shuffle feature was useless. Check out our notes:


While I personally didn’t agree with some of the feedback, we couldn’t justify keeping or defending a feature that our focus group members universally didn’t like and didn’t understand. Therefore, we essentially started over in our second prototype. Here’s the new design, which is inspired by the widely popular and highly interactive app, Tinder: