NBC Left Field: Mixed Reality Video Series
2019 Winner

NBC Left Field: Mixed Reality Video Series

NBC News Digital

New York, United States

Category New Technologies

Overview of this campaign

Our primary goal was to be at the forefront of the intersection of news and technology - with a view to attracting younger audiences and disrupting traditional news aesthetics.

We aimed to capitalize on the developments of VR whilst achieving the creation of easily accessible content. We used Google Tilt Brush - a VR drawing programme - and developed our own system to record drawings and presenter in the real world as video. With just a team of two we coded an app for controlling virtual cameras, built a custom camera rig and implemented a unique production workflow from capture to grade.

YouTube was the primary platform, which suited the goal to reach younger audiences. But the videos were also for Television and OTT services. Creating linear content meant that the technology was immediately deployable for broadcast. It also allowed us to utilise cinematic techniques - distinguishing it from traditional news.

The advantage of VR tools like Tilt Brush is that they’re designed for consumers to pick up and use. For us, this means that graphics can be created quickly and manipulated in real-time by a host. This is groundbreaking because the presenter is responsible for drawing all graphics and using the tool themselves. It allows a host to personalise their style and communicate directly and authentically with an audience

The setup leant itself to data - finding compelling stories in numbers. The videos were to be conversational and authentic, and underpinned by strong journalism. With a view to reaching and representing female audiences, being presented by a woman and dealing with topics from different perspectives was vital.  

The goal was to make a quality product, with a short turn-around and small team. Something that would stand out from the news cycle, and respond to it. 

Results for this campaign

Bringing all the elements together we’ve created a tight and aesthetically distinctive program which offers something unique for a YouTube audience.

The most immediate result was the viewership which totalled millions of views across 17 episodes, with subjects ranging from pockets in women’s clothing, to the implications of the midterm elections. Other topics have included politics, society, business, the environment, design, history.

Analysis reveals that the audience is younger than traditional news audiences and also more gender balanced. The episodes garnered hundreds of comments, demonstrating engagement from viewers.

On the production-side, the technique developed found use in political programming, and saw us collaborate with high-profile talent including Chuck Todd and Steve Kornacki. The ability to speak directly to images, and draw while speaking offered a unique way to tell data based political stories.

Furthermore, the by-products of the process have yielded practical tools for other departments in the organisation. We have developed a self-service graphics system which allows anyone to draw and export their own video graphics, using Google Tilt Brush.

Mixed Reality now allows us to take VR tools and place them in a real-world space, viewable from a 3rd person perspective in a linear video. We’ve taken Mixed Reality further by simulating some of the cinematic techniques that we use in our filmmaking. We’re using multiple lenses, simulating depth of field using blur plugins and using steadicams and camera sliders as well as creative light and stylistic grading techniques. It has also served as a springboard for further innovation. Building off the ability to create 3D assets using the tool - we are now pursuing further experiments in AR.


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