Fader brings 360-degree video and VR to small newsrooms

Alex Li, Katie Hughes and Katie Parkins

As 360-degree video and virtual reality become ubiquitous in journalism, it poses a challenge for newsrooms that may not have the resources of The New York Times or BBC to produce the same caliber of story. How do those smaller newsrooms keep up?

One solution is Fader, a browser-based VR editing tool made for journalists with little to no previous VR experience. Journalists can edit and publish from any browser, and Fader is free to use.

After beta-testing Fader for five months and doing research on 360’s place in journalism, we found Fader makes 360 and VR accessible to smaller newsrooms like the Columbia Missourian. Here’s what that Midwest daily was able to do with Fader.

This Fader story allows viewers to explore and interact with Moberly, Missouri’s tourist attractions within the virtual environment, providing readers with additional context to the overall story.

Fader is not designed to produce the kind of story you would with Adobe Premiere or Final Cut. It’s best optimized for stories where viewers can explore and interact with 360 content. Producing 360 stories with Fader doesn’t require an entire team. Just one person can do it.

The editing tool provides step-by-step instructions and it’s fairly intuitive. Most of the journalists we asked to test Fader said they would use it again. Metrics show viewers spend an average of five minutes on Fader projects. 

We also compared Fader to its two main competitors: Viar360 and Wonda VR. All three tools have their pros and cons.

For editors

 FaderViar360Wonda VR
PlatformBrowser basedBrowser basedSoftware based
Preview modePreview as a story packagePreview as individual scenesPreview as a story package and can only be displayed on Firefox
Display mode of scenesScenes lines (more clear for simple stories)Storyboard (more logic for complicated stories)Storyboard (more logic for complicated stories)
Analytic systemUnder developmentHas its own analytic systemGoogle Analytics
PricingFree$299 per month for businessCustom quote for enterprise, $199 per month for premium plan

For viewers

 FaderViar360Wonda VR
Loading modeTriggered by viewersSelf-loadingSelf-loading
ShareabilityHas thumbnail for both Facebook and TwitterNo thumbnail for Facebook and TwitterHas thumbnail for both Facebook and Twitter
Display mode of scenesScenes lines (more clear for simple stories)Storyboard (more logic for complicated stories)Storyboard (more logic for complicated stories)

Viar360 and Wonda VR are advanced tools to create 360-degree stories. However, their higher costs may be too expensive for adoption by smaller newsrooms. Fader, at this early stage, has the potential to serve those newsrooms.

Moving forward, Fader’s development team plans to develop user metrics, create an optimized media library that allows better integration into the journalistic workflow, and design a user interface catered to journalists’ need at the editor’s level.

Next semester, another student team will work with KOMU-TV, Columbia, Missouri’s NBC affiliate, to conduct a test in a commercial TV newsroom.


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