Inspired by the New York Times’ coverage of the aftermath of the Paris shootings last semester, the Sandbox News has created a virtual reality profile of the Natural Habitat Park at Seminole campus. The three-dimensional (3D) video gives viewers a glimpse of the Park as if they were actually walking through it by simply viewing their computer or phone screens through special lenses.
The video was filmed using a Ricoh Theta 360 that was provided by the Innovation Lab, also housed at Seminole campus in the Library. To see the story in 3D, students can view it on their smartphones or for a better experience visit the Innovation Lab and use an Oculus Rift or their other virtual reality headsets. Librarian Chad Mairn, who manages the Innovation Lab, commented, “Virtual Reality is becoming a popular tool for news media. You will start to see a lot of stories reported this way.”
Student Chris Demmons was up for the challenge. As a professional photographer, he is familiar with the principles of good video and was willing to try stitching together two video feeds, adding voice-over with cuts and transitions in a traditional editor, and then re-injecting the 360 metadata with a special Google tool. “3D is challenging,” Chris said. “While it’s not right for every story, it can add a powerful dimension as it did for the New York Times coverage.”
The Natural Habitat Park at Seminole was a good candidate for this experiment as it is a unique environment in its own right. Four large ponds surround a 200-yard boardwalk that wanders through 40 acres dedicated to Florida native plants and wildlife. The Park is a look back in time to when Florida was an undeveloped wilderness with myriad species of plant and animal life. Environmental Sciences professor Maura Scanlon, who manages the Park, provided the voiceover for the video. She hopes the video will “encourage students to come visit the Park and see for themselves in real-life how beautiful it is.”
The Natural Habitat Park at Seminole is open weekdays from dawn to dusk or weekends in the afternoon and is located behind the UP building at 9200 113th Street North in Seminole, Florida. The Sandbox also invites students to come visit the Park and then let us know – What do you think virtual reality adds to the story of the Park? Share your comments with us here!