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VR Storytelling - the challenges to create better experiences

An interview with Mary Matheson , Director/Producer and speaker at ORAMA on the 1st of April

We have met for a quick chat with Mary Matheson Producer/Director of charity and NGO films.

She made several award-winning films for international charities such as Plan International, Christian Aid and Save the Children. At ORAMA she will tell us more about Mamie's Dream her first VR film, made with VR production specialists Surround Vision.

You’ve supported the production of Save the Children’s virtual reality films. Could you expand on why the choice was to use virtual reality specifically?

The first VR film I worked on was for Plan International last year. Plan decided they wanted a VR film for a fundraising dinner, with 200 guests. They wanted to bring a real-life experience of a girl into the room and allow the guests to walk in her shoes momentarily.

VR has allowed charities to create the emotional connection needed to engage donors, supporter or audiences to give money or support a campaign. What is interesting is that charities are using VR in an entirely different way to flat-screen films. Charity use of flat-screen has boomed in recent years, with short-format films broadcast on digital platforms - creating a 'viral' film was the golden ticket. But with VR, the film is better 'experienced' in a headset at an event or in face to face fundraising. Save the Children has created a series of movies and they, like the UN, are using them in face to face street fundraising.

The initial feedback is that sign ups were twice the standard rate!!

Can you tell us about the challenges you faced in producing a VR documentary?

Producing a VR documentary in Sierra Leone has its particular challenges!

Using VR is such a new way of story-telling, that we are still feeling our way with technology as well as shooting styles/shots. Much of what we were doing was the first time we had tried particular techniques or shots.

Filming in 35-degree heat meant our Go-Pro batteries died very quickly. Surround Vision, the production company I worked with were hugely organised and made sure to charge the batteries continuously.

The second major challenge is the crowd-control, indeed trying to get school kids and people in a marketplace to ignore the camera can be quite difficult. Regarding the style, the biggest challenge is trying to create movement without making the viewer sick!

The biggest challenge is trying to create movement without making the viewer sick. - Mary Matheson

You’ve worked as a freelancer with various organisations. Do you believe that there are additional challenges for freelancers to access resources to create virtual reality projects?

At the moment the most difficult part of being freelance are the expenses, headsets and filming equipment still cost a reasonable amount of money. The industry is quite new; the risk is to invest in tools and equipment that could become obsolete within a year.

Do you want to know more about Immersive Storytelling?

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