Television & Cinema

BBC News invests in Virtual Reality-first documentary series

Hotly tipped as one of the digital trends to look out for in 2018, Virtual Reality (VR) has made significant steps towards becoming a more integrated offering from BBC News.

The BBC is investing in bringing its award-winning journalism to audiences seeking new, immersive experiences by launching its first VR-first documentary series.

Produced by BBC News and the BBC VR Hub, Damming the Nile comprises of a two-part VR documentary, a half-hour programme on BBC World News and a radio documentary on BBC World Service, as well as video and text on BBC.com. BBC VR Hub is a studio spearheading VR production at the BBC and exploring how VR can create real audience impact.

With VR at the heart of the production, the documentary follows BBC Africa Correspondent, Alastair Leithead, on a captivating journey along the Nile, exploring the politics and potential impact of Ethiopia’s $4.7 billion hydroelectric dam. Audiences are put in a correspondent’s shoes – through Ethiopia and Sudan, coming to an end at the mouth of the river Nile in Egypt – provoking an unmatched, emotional experience.

To support the viewing of Damming the Nile, the BBC has launched an app on the Oculus Store, where Samsung Gear VR users can access an array of BBC VR content across news, factual and entertainment.

Whilst VR headsets aren’t yet mainstream devices, shorter versions of the film have been made available in 360 video formats. For audiences with access to a smartphone, Damming the Nile will be accessible to view on bbc.com, as well as the BBC News Facebook and BBC News YouTube pages.

James Montgomery, Digital Development Director for BBC News said: “We’re committed to looking at ways in which to engage audiences with news, and – for the right project – VR can be an impactful and memorable way of doing our journalism. As an international broadcaster, it’s important for us to develop our storytelling and editing expertise to keep abreast of these rapidly improving technologies.” 

Alastair Leithead says: “Damming the Nile is a fascinating series exploring the geopolitical struggle for regional power and influence surrounding the world’s longest river. It shows that virtual reality can be used to give a new perspective on world affairs and engage new audiences with world-class BBC News reporting. There’s nothing more exciting than taking the audience on an immersive journey with you.”

The VR series allows audiences to fly high above the river Nile and its waterfalls, explore ancient Sudanese pyramids and take in the spectacular views of Egyptian temples from a hot air balloon before coming back down to earth in chaotic Cairo. Damming the Nile allows audiences to gain a whole new perspective on the conflict surrounding the world’s longest river.

Damming the Nile will be available on the BBC VR Oculus app, bbc.com, BBC News Facebook and BBC News YouTube from the 21st February. Short versions of the documentary series and text articles will also be available from the 21st February. The half hour documentary on BBC World News will air at 1230 GMT on Saturday 24th February and at 0030, 0730 and 1930 GMT on Sunday 25th February.

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