Doctors Without Borders (MSF): using 360 video to raise awareness in an immersive way

Burundian Refugees in Tanzania

Visualise worked with MSF-USA, to capture the refugee crisis in an immersive way, in order to increase public awareness. They talk about the challenges that came with this project and the objectives they set out to achieve

The Challenge

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. One of the biggest challenges they face is raising public awareness of the international refugee crisis.

MSF-USA partnered with Visualise to produce a series of 360° film for their traveling exhibition Forced From Home. The goal behind this campaign is to offer the public an unique perspective into why people flee their homes, what the search for safety is like, and the many dangers and health risks. By producing these immersive films, MSF hopes to give displaced people a voice and create a humanising connection with viewers.

The Solution

Working closely with the MSF-USA team, we helped identify the range of issues they wanted to highlight and share what life is like for these displaced people at refugee camps around the world.

Over the course of 7 months our team has traveled to camps in Greece, Tanzania, Iraq, Lebanon and Mexico to meet MSF field workers and refugees to share their stories.

The idea behind these films is to really place the viewer inside the scenes, where it feels like the refugee or MSF field worker is talking directly with you, providing some context to the social and political reasons why people are forced to flee their homes and the challenges of living in camps.

In the case of the Tanzania trailer we meet psychologist and MSF mental health coordinator, George Hunter, who describes what Burundian refugees have been though since political violence forced more than 100,000 people from their homes in April 2015.

All too often in VR experiences, the content is trying to communicate too many things in a shot. This can result is the opposite of what you want to achieve from the experience – a sense of ‘presence’, which is to make the viewer feel there are inside the action.

Our approach was to simplify the viewer experience. This requires the abandonment of many things learnt from traditional filmmaking. By having fewer edits, simple composition of shots, with action taking place in front of the viewer, we wanted to create space for the refugees to tell their stories and enable the viewers to connect on a deeper level.

The challenges of shooting in different conditions (on a rescue boat and in makeshift camps with limited resources) meant we had to have an agile team who at times looked after both the camera and 3D sound capture.

We were also filming interviews and scenes that would be projected into the Igloo Dome and viewable on the Samsung Gear VR headset. These platforms have different aspect ratios, so when setting up a scene considerations as to how it would work within the different environments was of paramount importance.

The Results

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will launch Forced From Home, a traveling exhibition featuring the 360° films projected inside an Igloo Dome and also via the Samsung Gear VR headsets, in the U.S. this autumn.

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