Over 220 000 people have been killed and millions injured in the civil war that has gripped Syria over the past five years. The media has been flooded with pictures and videos of thousands of refugees fleeing their war-torn country, forced to make treacherous journeys by boat or foot. Because of the influx of content throughout the ongoing conflict, social activist news organisation RYOT believes the public has become desensitized to the plight of those affected by the brutality. To make a bigger impact, the company chose to venture into the realm of virtual reality, changing the way onlookers experience journalism.
Launched in August, “Welcome to Aleppo” is a 360-degree, immersive short film that teleports viewers to the war-ravaged streets of Aleppo. The virtual reality film features vivid imagery of a once vibrant city now reduced to rubble. The film can be watched and controlled on computer screens and cellphones with or without a headset.
As a testament to the severity of the crisis, bullets can be heard whizzing past the camera as the viewer continues his or her journey. Speaking to the media, RYOT's London-based global editor Christian Stephen said capturing the footage was as dangerous as one might guess.
"It's an incredibly harsh environment to work in normally, but when they see you running around with a tripod and an alien device on top of it, they are going to try and kill you," Stephen was quoted as saying. "It looks like some sort of an odd IED. We were basically hunted for eight hours by the regime and rebel snipers. They thought I was trying to set up a bomb because I had to leave it for two to three minutes at a time to film what I wanted."
Before the release of “Welcome to Aleppo”, RYOT released “The Nepal Quake Project”. The film allowed viewers to experience the aftermath of the April 25th Nepal earthquake.