The debut NYT VR film, titled “The Displaced,” captures the resilience of three extraordinary children uprooted by war, all through the lens of virtual reality. The New York Times Magazine, in collaboration with Chris Milk and his virtual reality company Vrse, created the film to enable readers to experience what it means to be a child caught in the global refugee crisis. There are now more than 30 million children around the world who have been driven from their homes by war and persecution — more than at any time since World War II. The film brings viewers into daily lives of three children from South Sudan, eastern Ukraine and Syria.
“Our readers look to The Times for innovative and powerful storytelling and this is The Times at its best. Our Magazine team has created the first critical, serious piece of journalism using virtual reality, to shed light on one of the most dire humanitarian crises of our lifetime,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor, The New York Times.
“The power of VR is that it gives the viewer a unique sense of empathic connection to people and events,” said Jake Silverstein, editor in chief, The New York Times Magazine. “In the context of international reporting and conflict reporting, where our readers rely on us to bring them news and stories from remote and inaccessible places, this has huge potential. Through this immersive video experience, we can put our readers at the center of the most important story of our time.”
The New York Times developed the NYT VR app in collaboration with the virtual reality studio IM360. Compatible with iOS 8+ and Android 4.3+, the app supports virtual reality playback for Google Cardboard as well as playback of 360-degree video for mobile touchscreen navigation. The app will be free and available for download in the Google Play and iOS App Stores beginning November 5.
Google Cardboard brings the magic of virtual reality to anyone with a smartphone in an easy to use way,” said Mike Jazayeri, director of project management for VR at Google. “We’re excited to support The New York Times’s use of immersive storytelling at an unprecedented scale to bring awareness to this important issue.”
The Google Cardboard viewer offers the most immersive experience but users without Cardboard viewers are also encouraged to download the NYT VR app for an enhanced video experience that opens a window into the virtual reality environment. A version of the film will also be available in 2-D on NYTimes.com. Users can also go to the NYT YouTube channel to find the videos or visit youtube.com/360 for more immersive virtual reality content.
The first slate of NYT VR films include a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Magazine’s “Walking New York” cover image, a third film coming in December and more in 2016. Subscribers should keep the Google Cardboard viewers for future virtual reality videos.
Sponsors GE and MINI both deliver virtual reality films as part of the experience.
GE’s film, which explores a story of how design in industry and technology takes cues from nature, was created by T Brand Studio, The New York Times’s in-house content marketing agency, in conjunction with Framestore’s virtual reality studio.
MINI’s two short films, “Backwater” and “Real Memories,” invite viewers to join in the exploration of how new technologies like virtual reality change the way stories are told and how content is viewed.
“The great irony here is that it takes the print newspaper—a 164-year old business—and its still remarkable distribution system to deliver one of the most advanced digital storytelling technologies to more than a million people,” said Meredith Kopit Levien, executive vice president and chief revenue officer, The New York Times Company. “We are inspired by how The New York Times Magazine team used virtual reality to tell this important story and thrilled that T Brand Studio is able to invest in these new technologies to provide these creative tools to marketers. We know our readers will be thoroughly entertained and engaged by the films produced by MINI and GE.”
The New York Times Company
The New York Times Company is a global media organization dedicated to enhancing society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news and information. The company includes The New York Times, International New York Times, NYTimes.com, international.nytimes.com and related properties. It is known globally for excellence in its journalism, and innovation in its print and digital storytelling and its business model.