Freelance Society’s VR Videos are Making a Global Impression
Dylan Roberts has always felt compelled to tell stories through a lens, and the more dangerous the venue, the better.
He has been to Iraq, Gaza, Somalia, and many such places, documenting the pitfalls of war and hostile conflict. In 2013, he, along with London’s Christian Stephen co-founded Freelance Society, a company, based in Tulsa, that provides multimedia and interactive photos, video and digital content in conflict zones.
“I grew up in a family that traveled a lot and witnessed different cultures at an early age and understood different lifestyles,” Roberts, whose mother is a native of Paraguay and whose father runs the Houston-based U.S. Rice Producers Association says. “I got the bug early on.”
He considers putting himself in harm’s way for the greater good as “something I had to do, not something I wanted to do,” he said. “I take calculated risk. I was naturally able to do it. I made a lot of good friends and lost some friends, too.”
Freelance Society’s Work in VR
Freelance Society was the executive producer for a virtual reality video released this month through the children’s charity Theirworld, which took a look at the educational emergency facing the children of Nepal a year after an earthquake rattled the country.
Freelance Society, last year, produced what is billed as the first virtual-reality movie shot inside a war zone. Called “Welcome to Aleppo.” It was directed by Stephen for the RYOT news site, and it gives an up-close-and-personal view of the conflict in Syria.
Stephen said in an interview with Larry King in December that: “I’ve been toying around with the idea of virtual reality for a while.”
“If I’m going to make a story that’s immersive as possible by definition, it might as well be on the worst place on Earth,” he said.
“War gives life meaning. It gives you an importance, and it gives your existence a ferocity. It gets the blood pumping through your veins. It makes you more valuable because at any point of that second, that minute, that hour, that day, it could be over.”
Technology, Virtual Reality and its Use to the Media
Virtual reality video makes use of a series of cameras to produce images that are stitched together to form a 360-degree view, a labor-intensive process according to Roberts.
“They all come out in individual clips, so you have to stitch it together,” he said. “Think of it as a puzzle. It’s very difficult, especially in a run-and-gun or documentary style.”
Freelance Society produces stories mostly for national and international news outlets. It is, however, looking to focus on content in the Sooner State.
“Just like how technology on the phone and cameras have improved, VR will eventually get easier to use,” Roberts, a Texas native who studied at the University of Arkansas and Texas’ Austin Film Society said. “We’re kind of ahead of the curve, where we can do it automatically and have a great distribution platform. I would love to do Oklahoma stories and put them on a global map.
“Not only can we shoot it and package it, but we can put it on a really cool outlet for people learning what the heartland is like.”