This Q&A has been edited for space and clarity.
Maria Fernanda Lauret is a VR editor and stitcher for HuffPost RYOT where she helps put the audience into virtual reality news stories and documentaries. She’s also done production work for RYOT as a social news producer, creating short news videos for social media. Her behind-the-scenes team is in charge of making sure the VR stories the audience see and experience are seamless, she says.
What are your responsibilities as a VR editor and stitcher?
As a VR stitcher, my job is to make people believe that my work is invisible – the less stitching lines or noticeable discrepancies you see between the cameras in the video means that I’ve done my job well. As a VR editor, my job is to make sure that shots, music, interviews and other assets are all arranged to ensure that we can produce a powerful story. This coincides with our goal to deliver the most engaging, moving and impactful stories to our audience. My day-to-day responsibilities consist of assembling, organizing and syncing footage; creating rough- and fine-stitched shots, and editing news videos, documentaries and shows in VR.
What is stitching and what goes into the stitching process?
The footage we get from the cameras in the rig needs to be combined into one single image and that’s what we call “stitching.” The first step is to synchronize the footage and make a rough stitch of it. After the video is edited and the picture is locked, we use the time code of the shots to fine-stitch them – that means we get rid of the parallax lines, match the color between cameras, straighten and stabilize the horizon, and make the image as smooth as it can be.
When I talk about parallax lines, I’m referring to where the footage between cameras overlap in order to create a single image. Depending on the distance between the 360 camera and the subject, for example, the intersection between cameras is noticeable. The closer the subject is, the more complicated it is to hide the parallax lines.
What has been your most challenging project so far and why?
The video was shot in a six-camera rig, which made it very hard to fix parallax lines. It was also shot underwater, which made things more complicated and challenging. On top of that, you can’t really direct dolphins in shoots and their movements are so unpredictable. So we received shots where the dolphins were very near the camera and the shots were as stabilized as we could get them underwater. Needless to say, stitching the footage for that project was quite challenging.
What project are you the proudest of and why this project?
I’m very proud of the work I’ve done on the first episode of The Big Picture: News in Virtual Reality. It’s a virtual reality news series that will be played exclusively on Hulu. It’s such a big and unprecedented project as it’s the very first stereoscopic VR News episode – the first of its kind. No one has ever done this before and I’m really proud of the work that we’ve put into it.
The piece tells three different stories from around the globe: the life of a Bedouin in the deserts of Jordan, the effects of an earthquake in Italy, and the impacts of climate change in the Arctic. These stories are powerful and they will explore issues all around the world. The Big Picture: News in Virtual Reality will be released at a later date on the Hulu app.
What do you mean by stereoscopic and how does that impact the finished product?
The stereoscopic image creates a better sense of depth of field. It gives you the perception that close objects are in 3-D, which makes the VR experience even more interesting and realistic.
What interested you in this line of work?
When it comes to news and social-related documentaries, being part of a particular scenario and learning about a character so closely allows you to be part of the story and be positively affected by it.
That’s why VR and journalism is a perfect match. The viewers can create their own angle in a story and there’s nothing we, the content creators, can hide or manipulate from the audience. It’s an immersive experience that truly conveys a message. No matter what the story is about, it is happening around the audience and they instantly become a part of it. Watching videos in VR makes you feel like you’re part of that reality and that you are responsible for impacting the world in a way.
Our main goal at RYOT is to tell stories that will compel the audience to take action – that’s how it started. It also fits the idea of VR. The best way to understand the impact of a war or a natural disaster in a community is to immerse yourself in it and see everything that’s happening around you.