Thinking about my research question

Storytelling in documentary film and virtual reality films


Referring to the texts following from the two disciplines, I’ll attempt to find junctions and interstices between the ideas on narrative in two fields, with the goal of examining the impact of 360 degree filmmaking on documentary narrative.

Non-fiction film started at the genesis of filmmaking, and although Virtual Reality (VR) in this current incarnation is very new, forays into 3D are almost as old of film:

3D technology can be drawn the way back to the start of photography. A new invention by David Brewster in 1844, Stereoscope could take 3D photographic images. At the Great Exhibition in 1851, a picture of Queen Victoria taken by Louis Jules Duboscq, using the improved technology became very well known throughout the world. Soon, the craze for stereoscopic cameras caught on and these were quite commonly used by World War II. 

In 1922 the first public 3D movie, “The Power of Love”, was produced and it was in 1935 that the first 3D Color movie was produced.                                          Visionnw

I’ll look at 360degree films in a collaborative project between MA Documentary Film, MA Virtual Reality and the Independent Film Trust (IFT), Coldharbour, the aim being to produce up to 10 VR films to be created for an exhibition in London.
My particular focus will be on the way non-fiction storytelling is affected by working in 360 degrees in Virtual Reality.

There are many challenges and variables; the foremost being that the student workshops have not yet started. MA DF has a new Course Leader, MA VR is in its first year and this is the first collaboration with the IFT,  although I know their Operations Manager as a Visiting Speaker on Investigative Journalism. The two courses have signed expressions of interest with the IFT, they have applied for and received funding, students have been briefed, and now the teaching and experimentation will soon start, all being well. 360 degree filmmaking is new to me too, and it will be still a while before it becomes a mainstream medium.
As Bucher (2018) notes – “Experimentation is key to moving the medium forward”.


Bucher, J. (2018) Storytelling for Virtual Reality: Methods and principles of crafting immersive narratives. New York: NY & Abingdon : Oxon : Routledge.

Visionnw (no date) The History of 3D Technology. Available at: (Accessed: 30 Jan 2019).

21 January: Self initiated Project: Identifying a topic

Noble and Bestley (2005) The Research Process , p.47

21 January 2019:

Looking at one of my two possible questions in our group of three, asking “why” five times was a good way to drill down into the essential “problem” or idea, using the 5 Whys a method developed by Sakichi Toyoda founder of Toyota Industries, in the 1930s.

Three questions analyzed by each of the group.

Later in the day, the concept mapping exercise revealed to me where my first possible question was leading me, was to becoming involved in information technology architecture issues (which although the content itself is so important and engaging), that particular part of the endeavour is not my field of expertise.

So the second question revealed itself as my choice: what is the effect of 360 degree filmmaking on documentary storytelling?

Although I understand the terminology in research language of “problem”, I’m not enamoured with the presenting this exploration as a problem.  I would rather avoid the intrinsic negative bias in the word. Noble and Bestly’s diagram for me reads:

IDEA / Generates / QUESTION / Defines / METHODOLOGY / Finds /  OUTCOME

I don’t know yet if my research will solve anything, though I am concerned that the research is useful.  The outcomes may be inconclusive, may not be reproducible or ‘solve a problem’. Even in STEM subjects research where a proof of scientific investigation is reproducibility, there is no guarantee of that, according to the BBC from two years ago (Felden, 2017):

Science is facing a “reproducibility crisis” where more than two-thirds of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, research suggests. 

Keeping in mind that this is a “small scale enquiry” I will have to focus it carefully, but as Rabiger, renown documentarian and academic (2006, p.166) notes:

“.. the challenge will always be the same: to figure out what story to tell, and what point of view to take.”

I will review the learning outcomes from the brief as I proceed:
Learning outcomes –

    • identify a topic of enquiry (ANALYSIS)
    • Justify the professional significancewhat is the contextual area
    • Investigate methods of enquiry
    • What’s the best method to use? – or choose A METHOD and test it
    • There are protocols, things you are expected to do. Is it right for UAL, could I do something differently, I could see something, respond to it, reject it
      – Scholarly enquiry (RESEARCH), ethical, documentation, scholarly references, robust, can be shared. Not expected to do primary research, we can if choose. You can do a review of (secondary) literature, a proposal can be the outcomes. It can be scaled up.
      Show your process

Present project findings in a coherent and context-sensitive manner (COMMUNICATION AND PRESENTATION) (like object based learning but there has to be evidence of research).


Feilden, T. ( 2017) Most scientists ‘can’t replicate studies by their peers’. Available at: (Accessed 2 Feb 2019).

Mindtools (no date) 5 Whys Getting to the Root of a Problem Quickly.
Available at: (Accessed 22 Jan 2019).

Rabiger, M. (2006) Developing Story Ideas: Find the ideas you haven’t yet had Burlington, MA : Focal Press.