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BBC films migrants in Calais in immersive 360 degree VR experiment

BBC R&D and News Labs teams have filmed migrants in Calais with an experimental 360-degree camera rig. 

As part of an experiment in what BBC diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams calls ‘immersive journalism’, teams captured 360 footage of young men attempting to cross the border into the UK during a French ferry workers strike. 

The BBC has trialled its 360-degree camera tech in a number of likely places already; capturing sporting events at last year’s Commonwealth Games and shooting immersive underwater footage for its Oceans documentary, but recently the corporation has been putting the technology through its paces in a more traditional news gathering role.

Adams, who fronted the experiment noted that the technology is “probably at its best in crowded, tight spaces,” but ultimately conceded that 360-degree interactive news reports are undoubtedly the direction in which we’re heading. 

“We’ll need to carry out some more road tests before we figure out how best to use this new technology and what its 360-degree product can offer the viewer. But our trip to Calais felt like a glimpse of something that will soon be with us all.” 

The idea behind the BBC’s decision to deploy a 360-degree rig in Calais is to give more insight into the hardships endured by people frantically trying to enter the UK for a chance to work and, obviously, to put the tech through its paces in a more fast-moving, fluid environment than it has previously been used. 

While shooting 360-degree footage pitched-up a number of potential hurdles for the crew, including solving the ‘simple’ problem of getting the crew out of shot, the short piece showed that the technology could have a place in serious broadcasting, rather than being limited to sports, where it’s deployed to offer viewers a realistic spectator’s view, and movies and games, such as Sky’s Hobbit-themed walkthrough and Roddenberry Entertainment’s upcoming White Room: 02B3.

In recent weeks YouTube has begun supporting 360-degree footage on its Android app, with devices like the innovative and cheap Google Cardboard leading the way. Dedicated support for Oculus is expected to soon be added too, giving people the perfect viewing platform from which they can take in breaking news and current affairs as if they’re really there.

Of course, whether they will appreciate the extra immersion, especially during the more harrowing broadcasts, is anyone’s guess, but it looks as if the option will soon be there for all to choose.

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