New York Times launches Daily 360 initiative using Samsung Gear 360 VR cameras

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The New York Times has announced an initiative to publish one 360 VR video every day, and it’s using Samsung technology to do it.

Samsung provided journalists from the Times with Gear 360 cameras and related equipment to propel the initiative forward, and it appears the first video in the series was produced with Samsung.

Unlike many of the flagship 360 videos the Times shared when it launched its NYTVR app last fall, the first Daily 360 video is remarkably simple.

On Nov. 1, 2016, the New York Times announced an initiative to publish at least one 360 video every day.
On Nov. 1, 2016, the New York Times announced an initiative to publish at least one 360 video every day.

The video—which topped the Times’ homepage yesterday—depicts the rubble of a social hall in Sana, Yemen, following a Saudi air strike, and was shot by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Tyler Hicks and reporter Ben Hubbard. The 70-second video features three shots, simple ambient sound, and tells the story through subtitles.

It’s a far cry from the production quality of “The Displaced,” the New York Times’ award-winning 360 video (it won the Grand Prix at Cannes!), but it does offer a glimpse into how the Times expects to tackle high volume, short deadline, rapid-fire production of 360 content.

Although the Samsung Gear 360 doesn’t offer exceptionally high video quality (3840 x 1920), it does offer fast and simple stitching and trimming, which is sure to come in handy with the quick pace the Times has set for its reporters.

Not to mention, producing so much 360 in-house means a lot of Times reporters will need to figure out the technology behind this new medium quickly. A simple camera setup, like the Samsung Gear 360, makes that much easier than a multi-camera rig that requires manual stitching.

The gear may limit quality and the pressure of the daily news cycle could limit creativity, but what I find to be most important—and most exciting—about this initiative is how much VR journalists could learn about what works in this new medium.

When the Times began producing its own VR videos in-house last spring (earlier work was mostly done in partnership with VR production companies like VRSE), the company announced its intentions to experiment with VR content and formats.

Setting such a brisk pace for experimentation can only help them set some much-needed ethical standards, measure what audiences want, and ultimately help define this new medium. Hopefully we can all glean some of that insight…

As it kickstarts the initiative, the Times said to expect 360 videos from the campaign trail in the immediate future. But, in addition to covering news with a capital N, the Times also expects to use 360 videos in its style and culture reporting.

In a 360 video promoting Daily 360, the Times said viewers can expect to see stories that offer a first hand perspective, transcend boundaries, let them witness climate change, come face to face with adversity, demystify the world, experience elsewhere and see where you stand.

Maybe after all that, we’ll have a better idea of where low-budget, quick-turn VR news stands.

But even if it all remains a mystery, at the very least, seeing the New York Times hitch its 360 wagon to a Samsung star with only 4K resolution should give us all a bit of confidence to pick up a consumer-grade 360 camera for a few hundred dollars and take part in this new experiment.

Daily 360 videos can be watched on a desktop, phone, tablet or in a headset, and will be available online, on the New York Times app and on the Samsung VR app.

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