Hello and welcome to the latest update on Project Fader Enterprise. Just in case the name still doesn’t ring a bell: Vragments, Euronews and DW have formed a consortium to build and test a web-based, hands-on VR/360 storytelling and publishing platform called Fader. The undertaking is funded by the DNI, and we’ve been at it for almost exactly a year now. You can check out previous updates here, here, and here. On to the news:
Let’s crash Fader!
As the platform has been rich in features and relatively stable for quite a while now, a recent focus here at DW has been to produce more sophisticated, resource-intensive content fit for breaking Fader. Yes, you’ve read this correctly: The aim was to do a proper stress test and bring the system to its knees. We first succeeded in crashing our browsers and phones last Christmas when the consortium created the (world’s first) VR advent calendar. We eventually had to split it in two parts as there is no way (yet) to have a hi-res 360 still + sound + more than 12 interactive hotspots with text and textures in one scene (and all sorts of media assets in the background).
Insights: A mobile device in a cardboard is not a gaming pc hooked up to an Oculus Rift. Everything that is web-based and also caters to mobile users should be as lightweight as possible. Fader has (deliberate) limits for now. No XXL stories and experiences until the arrival of the next generation of GPUs, WebVR/WebXR, and 5G everywhere.
Rodents, art, bunkers, and TV news
As for more conventional testing, a VR/360/Fader workshop for DW trainees (held by Vragments at DW’s Bonn headquarters) produced a couple of nice experimental stories. We were glad to see that it’s possible to teach (media-savvy) people the basics of the medium and the editor/platform in just a couple of hours and get very decent results. Here’s an embedded version of “Mouse in da house” (our favorite story, because it comes with a funny voice-over, interesting camera angles and — most of all — an interesting gaming approach):
A Fader story on street art in Lisbon is currently making the headlines on Euronews. Using 360 and 2D assets, Portuguese service journalist Ricardo Figueira introduces the audience to Vhils, one of the country’s most prominent street artists. With his unique style, his building-size frescos and occasional collaboration with US artist Shepard Fairey, Vhils is one of the reasons why Lisbon is one of Europe’s coolest cities right now. Ricardo built the VR experience after only a few minutes of training, another testament to Fader’s ease of use.
Another recent story that deserves attention is HAZ’s 360 piece on a massive bunker below Hannover central station. That is because the editors never got in touch with us and simply added Fader to their 360/VR toolkit – which is exactly what the consortium is aiming for!
More interesting stories are in the making (and sometimes added on a daily basis), so keep an eye on Fader Discover.
Fader was also successfully tested at the DW lab. However, the resulting interactive documentary on TV news production in Berlin has only been released for internal use so far.
Under the hood
Naturally, the developers at Vragments haven’t been sitting on their hands, either.
New Fader features include basic metrics for individual users (check out how many weekly views your story gets and what kind of media assets it is made of) and advanced publishing and sharing features (publish via secret link, publish on Discover, retreive iframe, share via a variety of social networks and messengers).
And the work under the hood doesn’t stop. Up next: more player features, a new media library, and more sophisticated hotspots. Furthermore, the Fader interface is scheduled for a complete overhaul.
Lest we forget: WebVR/WebXR videos currently won’t play on iOS devices. That is due to due to technical problems on Apple’s side, believe it or not.
Hang out with the Fader crowd
Care to chat with us in person, discuss immersive storytelling, get a one-on-one Fader tutorial? Make sure to find Thomas Seymat of Euronews at Passau University on March 2nd, where he will be joining the “Immersiver Journalismus: Technik, Wirkung, Regulierung” conference. Or come and say hi to DW’s Fader team at the EBU’s next VR Workshop, held in the scope of the Digital Media Days in Prague on March 9th.