M100. 2016

360° journalism and Virtual Reality? Q&A: Susanne Dickel, 360° VJ / Ze.tt

By Marina Savchenko

Orange Magazine interviewed Susanne Dickel, one of the most experienced 360° journalists in Germany. She is one of the workshop trainers of the M100 Young European Journalists workshop. 25 young journalists from all over Europe could gain first-hand experience of an investigative journalism.

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What is 360° journalism for you? Is it part of the investigative journalism or a new wave of journalism?

I think it is a new type of media, like video, radio, text. So you can use it for investigative journalism but as well for other genres as well. Right now, 360° videos work well in a documentary style or in travel journalism.

You are one of the most experienced 360° journalists in Germany. How have you decided to be 360° journalist and what is your motivation for it?

I started creating 360° videos last year in April. At first, it was just because I was interested in this new field and wanted to see what those videos can offer. It was more out of curiosity: What techniques do you need? How do you shoot? How do you tell stories? As my experience grew, the videos I produced got longer and I could start to really tell stories and not only carry it around during a demonstration. That was when I realized that it’s more than just a gimmick. Especially when you see the videos with really good glasses such as Samsung Gear VR. The videos give the user the impression of being there and it’s deeply emotional when you’re virtually in a refugee camp or travel with soldiers through Falluja as in the NYT video. You may reach a better understanding of what it means to be there, in this situation. At the same time, it is fascinating to work with a new media. There are no clear rules so far as no one really can tell what works and what doesn’t work. It’s like a playground for journalists and creators of video content and I am not sure whether I will have many more opportunities in life to cope with a challenge like this.

What is the most favorite project in 360° videos you worked on?

Definitly, this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aq7uAGF-Ybs I went to Greece, to Lesvos where the refugees reach the coast, and to Idomeni where they couldn’t go further and had to stay in a camp at the border to Macedonia. A former US marine rescued them out of the water and helped the people not only by distributing food and blankets but he played the violin to cheer them up. It was intense and the video tells a whole story and I had to think of how to make an interview, how to edit it, how to tell the story in VR. It got nominated for the German Webvideo Award and the Photokina Motion Picture Award (which will be announced next weekend). Right now I am working on some new projects for ze.tt, but unfortunately I cannot speak about those so far.

What is the connection between 360-degree filming and virtual reality (VR)?

Some people argue about what is “real” VR. Some draw the line between 360° video and CGI created environment, others only want to call 3D content – no matter if it is 3D CGI or a stereoscopic 360° video – virtual reality. Of course, the virtually created environment with which you can interact may be even more interesting, especially for people that like gaming anyway. But apart from Robinson: The journey (a VR game from Crytek) I am not really convinced by the image quality of those VR experiences. Mostly they look a bit shabby compared to usual games such as The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed or GTA. Even more simple ones like League of Legends usually look better than VR experiences. So I prefer good looking 360° videos with a good story – but I think it’ll develop more into the direction of virtual reality. So I suppose in the future you’ll probably create really good looking VR experiences or combine 360° video and CGI.

What do you think about the future of immersive journalism and 360-degree filming?

I am pretty sure that this kind of journalism will be a normal possibility to tell a story in the future – just like visualizations in data journalism or classic 2D videos or radio. I am looking forward to all the new tools (software and hardware) that are being developed. There’s really a lot going on and that is great to see.

About Susanne Dickel: Susanne Dickel  is one of the most experienced 360° journalists in Germany. She created about 40 non fiction 360° videos in 4K quality for Axel Springer’s media brand “Die Welt”. Since June 2016, she works for Zett, a German online media for young people from the big news publisher Zeit Verlag. Her task is to build up the production of 360° content within the team. Susanne loves to try new techniques for Storytelling. She showed that you can cover news events with a 360° camera as well, e. g. the visit of Barack Obama in Hannover, the minute of silence after the Brussel’s Attacks or demonstrations during the G7 summit in Germany. After a few months, Susanne Dickel started to tell bigger stories in 360° videos and travelled to Serbia, Croatia, Greece and France to cover the situation of the refugees. For one of those videos, she received a nomination for the German Web Video Awards which is the most important prize in the field of German online video. Susanne Dickel was awarded by German „Medium Magazin“ as „Top 30 under 30“ in 2015 – a list of young influencers – because of her work with 360° Video.

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