There’s a new Mac only product available that just might change the way broadcast journalism is taught at U.S. universities.
The application, VR-reporter, is designed to provide a simulated television news reporting situation for college students in broadcasting programs. Students using this interactive simulation maneuver around a 360-degree crime scene where an assault has occurred to interview various individuals and capture B-roll footage. Clicking on any one of over a dozen people at the scene lets a student interview the individual. During the investigation, students can take notes and make follow-up phone calls.
Not all information is easily obtained. Of the three uniformed officers at the scene, only one will provide information and that is only given “off-the-record.” Additionally, only some bystanders provide valuable information while others turn out to be a waste of time. Follow-up telephone calls to the hospital and the police station are accessible to supply additional story facts.
After completing the investigation, notes and a tape log of interview and B-roll footage are saved to disk. Using the accompanying video (digital video videotape or DVD-ROM) and a nonlinear editing system (such as Apple Final Cut Pro, Media 100, Adobe Premiere, etc.), students then write, do the voice-over, and edit their news package.
An onscreen reporter’s notebook is available throughout the simulation. A wide shot of the location is included so that students with access to a chromakey equipped studio can record a reporter’s stand-up to use in the finished package.
The VR-reporter package includes over 60 video clips of interview questions and B-roll shots. The shots also serve as a model for the types of questions a reporter should ask and the type of shots and compositions a they should try.
“VR-reporter has several important educational features,” said Thomas McHardy, author of the program and assistant professor, School of Media Arts & Design, James Madison University. “The simulation provides the necessary news story facts in a manner that requires the students to explore the scene since no single character provides all the pertinent facts required to tell a full and accurate story. The simulation is based on a story that has not been covered by any other media organization, which prohibits simple paraphrasing and requires critical thinking”
The simulation presents a crime scene experience that would otherwise be difficult to assign or stage as an exercise, he added. And it provides an introductory newsgathering experience without straining video production resources and eliminates tape logging to shorten the editing time. Finally, the simulation raises ethical issues such as off-the-record information for students to consider, said McHardy.
VR-reporter is available in three formats: CD-only (one CD-ROM with QuickTime versions of the videoclips), a CD/DV package (one CD-ROM and one DV digital videotape), and a DVD package (one DVD-ROM with program and video footage). To use the application, you’ll need a Power Mac G3 or G4, Mac OS 8 or higher, 16MB of free RAM, QuickTime 4 or higher, and a CD or DVD drive. For more info, contact