Harrowing 360-Degree Footage of California Camp Fire Aftermath

It’s one thing to read it in the news, but to take a somber drive through the devastation is surreal.

Last month, Steve Cooper shot a short 360 documentary in Paradise, CA. In the Sierra Nevada foothills, the town was ravaged by the recent wildfires. Even though it happened a month ago, residents are only being allowed to return now.

I think immersive 360 video is a wonderful asset to photojournalism. It’s pretty breathtaking to take a mournful drive through scorched streets and see hardworking rescue workers. I feel like this format would be beneficial to other worldwide disasters. BBC has done it before, and it’s possibly the best way to get a clear picture of a scene. It’s much harder to frame or stage scenarios, and so less open to debate and biased attitudes.

The camera used was an Insta360 Pro, on a Moza Guru360. As you can see in this Instagram post from Go.Dingo, the VR dolly company that Cooper is part of, the gimbal is a little awkward to set up. You need to counterbalance the camera with weights. I wonder if the newer version of this camera wouldn’t need a stabilizer, which could make it easier for journalists to get shots without worrying about technical details. Between this and smaller, stabilized 360 cameras, I think we'll be seeing more VR video in the news.

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3 Comments

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Ugh so heartbreaking :(. The footage is surreal like it's another planet, really cool they were able to capture this

Michael Holst's picture

I can't imagine what it feels like to have everything taken by flames. Makes me think about impermanence and the things that I can and cant live without. I wonder how many photo albums were lost. Books full of memories forever gone and unable to be pass down to new generations.

Crystal Johnson's picture

It's really heartbreaking to see the aftermath. Lives forever changed and family history lost in just a matter of hours ;/