Telling stories in 3-D in an immersive, interactive and integrative way
February 12, 2015 - Original post date
The past few months of my Reynolds Fellowship have been exciting. I’ve been busy working with students from my Immersive Visualization Lab, and with a Missouri School of Journalism capstone class on two fronts:
- I’ve created a database of 3-D technologies that have potential and useful applications for journalism.
- We’re exploring the potential of 3-D technologies to tell a meaningful story.
In this post, I’ll give a quick overview of the story we’re working on and the different technologies we’re incorporating into the piece. Leading to the launch of our project, I’ll provide behind-the-scenes details of our work including challenges faced and lessons learned over the past few weeks.
Media of the future is now
Professions like architecture and the gaming industry have integrated 3-D technologies into their day-to-day workflow. But journalism hasn’t been as fast to integrate. To demonstrate 3-D capabilities in journalism, we’ve been working on a story about a young fashion designer who draws inspiration from a University of Missouri 175th anniversary exhibit of historic costumes. This story also forms a good backdrop to illustrate a near-term future scenario where 3-D content can be an integral part of the stories we consume and share.
The story was appealing for multiple reasons. The historic costume collection features pieces from prominent university leaders whose names are associated with some of the landmark buildings on campus. The three-dimensional nature of these dresses and richness of detail present interesting workflow challenges to produce 3-D content for storytelling. Moreover, the viewers who see this exhibit in person are not allowed to touch them, given their age and fragility. This provides an interesting opportunity for 3-D technologies to present an engaging story allowing the viewers to interact with virtual representations of these historic costumes. We were also keen to use off-the-shelf hardware and software technologies that are affordable for any news organization.
The students who are working with me on this project bring a complementary set of skills. The design students’ advanced visualization and graphic skills are matched by the storytelling skills of the journalism students. Below is a sneak preview of the storyboards of our story, which we intend to present as a 3-D video.
In addition to the video, we plan to release interactive 3-D content featured in the video as independent, standalone pieces. These will include:
- Interactive display of the exhibit pieces in a virtual reality walkthrough using Unity 3D for both the Web as well as the Oculus Rift.
- 3-D video footage viewable on smart 3-D TVs.
- Augmented reality models of select pieces from the exhibit.
- Interactive light-field images photographed using a Lytro Illum camera.
Coming soon: Balakrishnan will give a detailed behind-the-scenes look of the pieces listed above.
As a Reynolds Fellow, Bimal Balakrishan, director of the Immersive Visualization Lab at the University of Missouri, is exploring the potential applications (and challenges) of 3-D technology for the journalism and advertising industries. Balakrishnan says various 3-D technologies could enable visual content to be presented in a more innovative, interactive and immersive manner. Reach Balakrishnan by email at email@example.com.
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