Interview with Yang: Clash Between Journalism and VR
Xu Yang, 34, a professional photographer, specializes in feature stories and emergency reports. Having rich experience as a journalist, he is interested in a wide range of things and awake to new technology and art. These characteristics, according to him, are derived from his focus on engineering in college.
He’s not much of an outdoorsy person; when he chills at home he would have fun with his 3D printer or some first-person shooter. Once he steps out of the door, though, he transforms into a fearlessly adventurous soul, which he explains as an addiction to adrenaline rush. He loves test-flying airplane models (fixed-wing and multi-axis) with friends. He’s also a licensed amateur paraglider and has his own package of paragliding gear.
Xu doesn’t know many friends in the VR industry, and his first exposure to VR was a video shoot commission back in April 2015. He was asked by a friend from Green Peace to aerial-photograph a panorama video of a pollution site in Yunnan. His serial photography was exhibited in Dali Photography Festival. This was his first opportunity to wrap his head around VR production. By the end of 2015, he built his own 3D printer whereby he started crafting his own photography equipment.
Xu has uploaded a total of 4 videos on VeeR now, about launching rockets, paragliding over a prairie, and a story of an American family adopting a Chinese foundling respectively.
Maybe you can already infer that his videos all bear on his profession as a journalist. You are right-on. Xu is exploring VR as a more powerful and immersive way for storytelling. As for the story about the abandoned baby, he commented that it is a common theme in family and ethic reportage. When he discussed the selection of this topic with his coworkers, they were worried that it might turn out to be yet another generic story without a memorable message. They made the executive decision to shoot a video in VR and that gave birth to his first VR work.
Xu has also had many interesting anecdotes about his VR career: one time for a video shoot, he had to drive all his colleagues out of the camera viewfinder. As he sees it, VR photography is vastly different from traditional photography, as there is no difference between shot categories in VR, whereas the only things a photographer should account for are distance, height, main field of view, and movement trajectory, etc.
For now, Xu shoots with GoPro, whose resolution and stability expect a lot of room to grow. What he has learned from VR is that VR videos provide more interaction with the audience, which requires better thought-out scripts. His tip for newcomers to VR is to always take stability as the rule of thumb. If you record without a stabilizer, do not run around hand-holding the camera, in case your audience feel nauseous watching your videos.
In respect to his future plans with VR, Xu said he would continue on with VR photography if his schedule allows. He’s interested in doing extreme sports and more documentaries. Toward this purpose, he has produced a variety of accessories, and collaborated with his friends to create a electrostatic cradle head. He thinks that VR has a bright prospect, for it has a clear goal to realize human-machine interaction (HMI), which is surely to come to the scene down the road.