Learn How Storyhunter Is Helping Meta Re-Define the Future of Storytelling
Digital technologies have transformed storytelling, giving creatives new ways to engage, educate, and inspire audiences. In our new series, “Stories of Tomorrow,” leading storytellers take us inside their latest projects, revealing how new technologies are changing what stories are, and in doing so, changing how we all see the world. In the first episode, we speak with Jay Morgan, a creative director at Meta’s Creative Shop. He spearheaded an immersive VR project in collaboration with the International Paralympics Committee and Phoria that “aims to positively impact perceptions of disability.” Read on to get behind the scenes details of the cross-continent shoots of “Paralympics RAW,” how Storyhunter helped it all come together, and Jay’s insight into the transformation of the traditional production model.
Shivan: Jay, thank you for taking the time to talk with Storyhunter. You’re a successful creative strategist, but I’m curious, what would your alternative career choice be?
Jay: I would make timber furniture because I love timber and I love that it’s a physical thing. You start a day and you get to set up what you’re going to make. And at the end of it, you’ve got something to show for that. And I just love the tactility of timber, but it’s very different from what I do as a day job.
Shivan: Where do you find inspiration?
Jay: I’m inspired by new technologies and the intersection between that and human behavior and amazing human stories.
Shivan: As a creative strategist at Meta, what is the philosophy behind your work?
Jay: You need to understand both the technology and also the creative storytelling aspect of the work. It’s no good just to come up with amazing big ideas if you don’t understand the underlying technology that you’re going to tell those stories through.
Shivan: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Jay: To be insatiably curious. Being curious about a lot of different things gives you all this amazing material and inspiration to work from, and it’s those disparate things that come together to form new ideas and creative solutions.
Shivan: Can you tell us about the Paralympics RAW project? And how did you tap into the power of VR to tell the story?
Jay: Paralympics RAW came from the intersection between the immersive experience you can have on the web now, in particular VR, and the Paralympics’ brand mission, which is to change people’s perception of disability. So, we saw a real overlap between those two missions.
It takes the stories of five Paralympic athletes and the emotions that define the most important moments of their life. Those emotions are trust, courage, loneliness, love, and power.
The power of VR for this story came from the notion of being able to translate physical human emotions into a virtual experience. And VR allows us to do that in a way that hasn’t been possible before. When you watch a classic film on either TV, your phone, or the web, it’s very 2D. There are some emotions you’ll get because storytelling has that sort of ability, but within VR, it’s indistinguishable from the real world.
“The power of VR for this story came from the notion of being able to translate physical human emotions into a virtual experience.”
With RAW, we were trying to create an immersive experience where people could inhabit the athlete’s stories. They could take a walk in their shoes, so to speak. And the emotions transferred into this virtual experience could actually change the perceptions of these athletes.
Shivan: RAW is a sound-first experience. How did you make this decision?
Jay: With any new technology, there are limitations. We decided with RAW rather than shy away from them, let’s lean into them. We actually majored in spatial audio and the 3D audio component, and the visuals were informed by that. The result is you really enjoy the visual experience. But you have a theater of the mind effect where the sound creates an amazing soundscape that populates your mind with the imagination of what’s happening. It’s very different from a traditional VR experience.
Shivan: RAW can be experienced on any device. Can you tell us about the technology behind the experience?
Jay: RAW is built in a technology called WebXR, which is an open, web browser base, immersion experience technology. That just means it’s a 3D world and it can be experienced on any device whether it’s a mobile, desktop, or a VR headset. Obviously using a VR headset, you will have a completely different experience because you have six degrees of freedom: when you move your head, the environment moves. On desktop or mobile, you’re controlling that with your hand or mouse. What went into creating that experience is twofold: One is that we needed to capture all the athletes’ stories, which is what we worked with Storyhunter to do. Then we had to combine that into the virtual reality experience, which was done by another partner of ours called Phoria.
Shivan: You are based in Sydney, Australia and the five athletes were in five different cities around the world including Gold Coast, Hong Kong, Oslo, Fort Lauderdale, and Los Angeles. How did you pull off this production?
Jay: We had a lot of production challenges and Storyhunter really helped navigate those. We didn’t have the luxury of being able to send a crew all the way around the world and have the same crew in every location for every athlete. We needed trusted hands in each location that we could work with remotely. It was really important to us that that crew was local, understood the local culture, could speak the local language, and could be our eyes and ears on the ground to facilitate each of the shoots. It was also important that they could liaise with the athletes and their agents.
“We needed trusted hands in each location that we could work with remotely.”
These athletes were anywhere from a month to two weeks out in training for the Paralympics. Their time was incredibly precious to them. Most of them, we only had access to for an hour. We needed to shoot these people in locations where we can capture great audio and some b-roll.
We were also in a different time zone. We were doing the production from AIPAC and a lot of these athletes were either in North America or Europe. So having these distributed production units in each of the locations really helped us, both from a time point of view and also in facilitating the actual storytelling component.
Shivan: What was the production set-up on the ground?
Jay: We needed to capture an audio first experience. At a normal shoot, you might only have a lapel mic and a boom mic for the talent, but for this, we actually needed stereo versions of those. Because we were creating spatial sounds, we needed more microphones in the background to capture the ambient sounds. Then we had a two-camera set-up for the interviews themselves.
“We’re not going to tell the stories of tomorrow by using the ways of the past.”
Shivan: You hired local crews and saved on carbon emissions that would have been emitted from traveling to each location yourself. Not to mention hotels and transportation on the ground. Did sustainability factor into your decision to work with Storyhunter?
Jay: Initially we had not thought about the sustainable side of the production. Now that we have gone down this path and it looks like we’ll be doing more and more of this, it’s just really nice to know that there’s a sustainable aspect to production. We’re not going to tell the stories of tomorrow by using the ways of the past. And we’re excited to explore our creativity by working with great partners like Storyhunter.
Shivan: Uncertainty during these past couple of years has placed a premium on new and agile ways of doing things. Companies like Meta are becoming “future-ready” by retooling traditional production models. What was your experience working with Storyhunter and what do you believe is the future of production?
Jay: This kind of production is impossible without a partner like Storyhunter. We’re trying to do the impossible. We’re trying to shoot in five locations around the world. We’re trying to shoot five different people. There are different languages involved. There are different locations and time zones. We just had to have an agile partner like Storyhunter to do this. And I just can’t see it happening any other way. The traditional way would’ve been me and the team getting on a plane and flying all the way around the world. And that just wasn’t possible. And I don’t think it’s kind of like possible moving forward either.