BBC Nile report films with Virtual Reality camera

The BBC used a Virtual Reality camera to film a report looking at the political implications of the damming of the River Nile in Ethiopia.

The BBC used a Virtual Reality camera to film a news report looking at the political implications of the damming of the River Nile in Ethiopia.

Alastair Leithead, the BBC’s Africa correspondent, took a trip down the iconic river through Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt for the two-part report entitled Damming the Nile VR.

BBC Nile report films with Virtual Reality camera
Damming the Nile

Much of the project was shot using an Insta360 Pro, a 1.2kg VR camera with six fisheye lenses that is usually mounted on a tripod and was supervised by VR expert Phil Harper.

The camera generates immersive VR with fully spatialised audio, meaning the sound changes depending where the user looks.

The Insta360 Pro is designed to be mobile and Leithead and his team sheltered the camera with a sunhat to prevent the unit overheating between takes.

“Crucially, the trip was going to be happening anyway and it seemed like a good opportunity to help kick-start the BBC’s VR content with a journey down a scenic river,” says Leithead, in comments to KFTV. "The trip would ordinarily be too expensive if planned as a project organised solely around VR."

“The locations offered beautiful views and millennia of history in a part of the world that’s difficult for many to access.”

VR impacted the style of the reporting itself. The camera was often placed in stationary positions in locations that were of significant visual interest for the report – such as at the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam itself – with Leithead opting to provide conversational voiceover.

Damming the Nile

As a technology, VR presents opportunities to blend local spectacle with journalistic narratives. Viewers can be immersed in the world of the story more effectively than through regular TV reports.

A greater degree of immersion makes the overall experience more personable – at one stage Leithead ‘offers’ the viewer a drink as he talks to a local journalist over lunch in a café with his crew.

“I wanted to make it more ‘pally’ and give viewers the space to take in the views,” says Leithead.

“The viewer is included as a person and that gives the report more personality. You’re on the journey with the team and you’re in on the technique.”

Damming the Nile VR is part of the BBC’s new Virtual Reality Hub web page that offers practical details on current BBC VR projects and the best ways to view the content. There’s also a new BBC VR app available through the Oculus Gear VR store.

To read KFTV’s assessment of the top VR projects of the past year, click here.

Images: Alastair Leithead/BBC

BBC Nile report films with Virtual Reality camera
Damming the Nile

The BBC used a Virtual Reality camera to film a news report looking at the political implications of the damming of the River Nile in Ethiopia.

Alastair Leithead, the BBC’s Africa correspondent, took a trip down the iconic river through Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt for the two-part report entitled Damming the Nile VR.

Much of the project was shot using an Insta360 Pro, a 1.2kg VR camera with six fisheye lenses that is usually mounted on a tripod and was supervised by VR expert Phil Harper.

The camera generates immersive VR with fully spatialised audio, meaning the sound changes depending where the user looks.

The Insta360 Pro is designed to be mobile and Leithead and his team sheltered the camera with a sunhat to prevent the unit overheating between takes.

“Crucially, the trip was going to be happening anyway and it seemed like a good opportunity to help kick-start the BBC’s VR content with a journey down a scenic river,” says Leithead, in comments to KFTV. "The trip would ordinarily be too expensive if planned as a project organised solely around VR."

“The locations offered beautiful views and millennia of history in a part of the world that’s difficult for many to access.”

VR impacted the style of the reporting itself. The camera was often placed in stationary positions in locations that were of significant visual interest for the report – such as at the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam itself – with Leithead opting to provide conversational voiceover.

Damming the Nile

As a technology, VR presents opportunities to blend local spectacle with journalistic narratives. Viewers can be immersed in the world of the story more effectively than through regular TV reports.

A greater degree of immersion makes the overall experience more personable – at one stage Leithead ‘offers’ the viewer a drink as he talks to a local journalist over lunch in a café with his crew.

“I wanted to make it more ‘pally’ and give viewers the space to take in the views,” says Leithead.

“The viewer is included as a person and that gives the report more personality. You’re on the journey with the team and you’re in on the technique.”

Damming the Nile VR is part of the BBC’s new Virtual Reality Hub web page that offers practical details on current BBC VR projects and the best ways to view the content. There’s also a new BBC VR app available through the Oculus Gear VR store.

To read KFTV’s assessment of the top VR projects of the past year, click here.

Images: Alastair Leithead/BBC

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