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Using Virtual Reality to Tell Stories of Humanitarian Issues Worldwide

Is Virtual Reality (VR) the “empathy machine”? What are the best practices of VR, a technology that is taking off in 2016?

Mark Atkin, curator of VR exhibitions at Sheffield Doc/Fest, UK’s biggest non-fiction film festival, speaks with the Thomson Reuters Foundation about the challenges of making VR films and how filmmakers can adapt their ways of storytelling.

Virtual reality was tied to computer gaming when it gained popularity in the 1990s. But as the technology has progressed, it has found many other uses. Filmmakers and charities have begun to use VR films to raise awareness of humanitarian issues worldwide, with its immersive quality helping audiences to better understand the plight of those caught up in wars or disasters.

“It’s certainly not good enough just to take your camera and stick it in the middle of a refugee camp and think ‘now people will understand,'” Atkin said. “If you don’t have a strong connection to the character, if you don’t have a compelling story, it’s just like any other media. It’s not going to move you very much at all.”

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