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PGH in 360: Youth Perspectives

PGH in 360 partners with community organizations to teach young people to create 360-degree videos about issues that matter to them.

PGH in 360 has two main purposes: to allow young people to share their views on issues that matter to them, and to introduce them to creating immersive media through producing 360-degree videos. Youth in the program conceptualize an issue and how they would tell it in 360 degrees, learn camera operation, write scripts, film, and edit, producing a finished product and practicing speaking about it.


Information on this page is provided by the innovator and has not been evaluated by HundrED.

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January 2019
It’s amazing what young people can do given the tools, the opportunity, and a bit of direction.

About the innovation

New Technologies Activating Youth Voices

XR technology, which includes 360-degree video, virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality, is a rapidly growing field with an astonishing range of applications in business, industry, education, healthcare, and more, including entertainment. These media will likely lead to a transformation in our daily lives equivalent to, if not greater than, that brought by the smartphone. It’s been hailed as the next computing platform This means that there is enormous opportunity for those who are able to use XR tools.

PGH in 360 is designed to open a window into working in XR to young people in Pittsburgh while giving them a chance to tell their own stories. It’s a small step, but an important one that gives youth experience and confidence in their abilities.

PGH in 360 is inspired by the notion that VR is “the ultimate empathy machine,” as Chris Milk put it in his 2015 TED talk. Its creation was also sparked by an historical moment of technological change: In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the advent of video technology made movie creation more accessible and affordable. Feminist artists and media makers of the 1970s fully embraced video technology in order to tell their stories and the stories of other women, so much so that video art became known as a woman’s medium.

Pittsburgh is abuzz with technological innovation, which is fueling growth and change in this rust belt city. But not everyone has access to the latest in technology and not everyone in the city is benefitting from the tech boom here.

Like the change in women’s representation in media that technological change made possible, the availability of portable, consumer-grade 360 cameras can allow more people to tell their stories in this new medium and open windows into working in XR. All that is necessary to make this possible for youth is to put these tools into their hands and give them a bit of direction so they can create completed 360-degree video projects. Thus PGH in 360: Youth Perspectives was born.

PGH in 360 won a bit of prize money at a social justice innovation weekend hosted by Repair the World Pittsburgh in early 2018, and from there we launched. Our first site and community partner was 1 Hood Media, a media arts and activism organization. In the course of a week, 5 teens at 1 Hood had the opportunity to think through their positions on civic issues, particularly the gentrification taking place in Pittsburgh. They worked collaboratively to achieve project goals and mentored one another in the process, while gaining confidence in their ability to work with new media technology.

Black Youth Speaks, Chapter 1: Retaliation vs. Innocent Lives Lost, is a 360 video created over the course of 2 weeks in June 2018 during a workshop conducted by PGH in 360: Youth Perspectives at the YMCA Lighthouse Project in Pittsburgh. On the first day of the workshop, 21-year-old local rapper Jimmy Wopo was shot and killed. The very next day, 17-year-old Antwon Rose II was shot in the back and killed by police. Participants in the workshop were no stranger to the effects of gun violence, but these events provided a sense of immediacy that fueled their desire to tackle the subject in 360 degrees. The video is inspired by the filmmakers’ experience of and concerns about the impact of gun violence on their community.

The issues these youth-created videos address are ones that matter, and the project gave the creators a new medium in which to explore the topics. Writing, directing, acting, storyboarding for 360, camera operation, editing, soundtracks, titles, and transitions: these were among the skills practiced in bringing the stories to life. And of course, there was teamwork. Though PGH in 360 was designed to introduce young people to XR technologies through the medium of 360, the soft skills used in the program are equally important.

PGH in 360 videos were shared with the public at multiple events in 2018, including Youth Innovation Night, which was part of the city’s Inclusive Innovation Week in April, and at the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s CREATE Festival and at TEDx Pittsburgh in June. In September, we had the chance to showcase PGH in 360 videos at the Thrival Festival’s Life.Code Interactive Experience in the stunningly beautiful Music Hall Foyer at the Carnegie Museum of Art. All told, more than 100 people put on headsets to watch the videos at these events. The response was overwhelmingly positive. We hope that the experience of watching the videos gave viewers the opportunity to stand in the shoes of Pittsburgh youth for a while and to better understand some of the issues that are important to them.

In November of 2018 PGH in 360: Youth Perspectives was selected for inclusion in a listing of 100 Voices of AR and VR in Education. It was also a special experience to present on the project in a live-in-VR event in December, bringing the voices and concerns of Pittsburgh youth to an international audience.

Moving forward, the goal is to develop relationships with organizations in other cities so that we can bring the workshops to even more people. We will also continue offering 360-degree video workshops in Pittsburgh while expanding efforts to make XR tools accessible to all people in the city. This work has already begun, through lessons that introduce younger children to augmented and virtual reality.

This project is about introducing youth to new technology and letting them use their creativity to express their perspectives on their lives and the world in which they live. It’s amazing what young people can do given the tools, the opportunity, and a bit of direction.


PGH in 360 Videos Shown at Festivals It was wonderful to be able to share PGH in 360 videos with the public at 4 different events in 2018. 360 Cameras = All Angles, the video made at 1Hood Media, was shown at Youth Innovation Night, which was part of the city’s Inclusive Innovation Week in April, and at the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s CREATE Festival and at TEDx Pittsburgh in June. Then, in September, A Safe Place and Black Youth Speaks, Chapter 1: Retaliation Vs. Innocent Lives Lost, the videos made over the summer at the Lighthouse Project, were added to the mix. We had the chance to showcase all three of the 360 videos at the Thrival Festival’s Life.Code Interactive Experience in the stunningly beautiful Music Hall Foyer at the Carnegie Museum of Art. All told, more than 100 people put on headsets to watch the videos at these events. The response was overwhelmingly positive. We hope that the experience of watching the videos gave viewers the opportunity to stand in the shoes of Pittsburgh youth for a while and to better understand some of the issues that are important to them. Below are some of the comments from viewers and a few photos from the events. Viewer responses to PGH in 360 videos “Black Youth Speaks is a very powerful video that places you into an environment that is true to how gun violence can destroy a community.” “Excellent, 360 video really immerses you in the world the director wants to portray and feel what they want you to feel.” “Awesome! Would help a lot of people have empathy for those issues if they could be placed ‘inside’ them.” “I think it is a really good way for people to sympathize with the real situation and will bring more people in the community to care.” “I am familiar with East Liberty and felt it was close to real. Great learning tool.” “I think this is a great project. Was happy to see these teens being creative and investigative.” “interesting questions and responses—voices that need to be heard more” “immersive way to show people another’s experience–could be beneficial in practicing empathy” “incredible to see teens’ voices in this medium!” “It feels like a real inclusive program & video that actually takes into account the opinion and thought of youth.” “really creative and relevant content” “It’s great to see and hear teen voices. I think this is a great way to both capture and get buy-in from teen communities.” “So great to see honest opinions and step into the experience of others in a way no one else has” “Surprised at the serious content our teens produce.” “very interesting & important way of storytelling. I would love to see even more perspectives.” “creative project that gives youth an avenue to express themselves” “very powerful, impressive production value, voices from which we should hear more.” “Well produced. I am glad youth are being in such creative productions. Well done :)” “very good immersive storytelling” “very well done, powerful!”

Implementation steps

Select an organization to work with or a group of students

If you regularly work with youth, identify those who are interested in media or new technologies and who might benefit from working on a project in which they express their perspectives.

Contact local organizations that run youth programs to see whether they would be interested in hosting a 360 video workshop.

Team size is recommended to be at least 3 and up to 5. You will need at least one adult/staff member per team, because they may need to accompany the team on filming excursions. Think about the competency of your staff or assistants when determining how many teams you'll put together. If you are the only 360 expert, no more than 2 teams is recommended.

Create a detailed list of equipment needed

Recommended equipment per team of 360 videographers:

1 consumer-grade 360-degree video camera

Suggestion: the Samsung Gear 360 is reliable, easy to use, and very affordable at this point. It also comes with editing free software.

1 computer for editing

Check the specs on the Gear 360 website for the free Action Director software. It is important that your computer at least meets the specs there. If not, you might be able to stitch the 360 footage, but playback and editing will not go well.

Supports such as selfie sticks, tripods, or monopods

Have at least 1 selfie stick per camera for on-the go filming. Some small tabletop tripods can also be used as selfie sticks. It's also good to have a tripod or monopod that reaches eye level for a normal person.

A micro SD card

360 videos require high speed storage transmission. Recommended: SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS II microSDXC memory card with USB 3.0 adaptor. Make sure the card you get is U3.

Silicon hood to protect the camera lenses

If you scratch the camera lens, it's ruined! Holaca makes some silicon protective hoods for the Gear 360.

A camera case

A case will ease storage and portability. Be sure to get one that has pouches for the tiny accessories (and a lens cloth) so you can keep track of them. Hermitshell makes some cases designed for the Gear 360.

A VR headset and up-to-date smart phone

This can be as simple as a cardboard headset, but you can buy others that work with smartphones that are more substantial and even have built-in headphones and are pretty cheap. If you have the budget, and Oculus Go is a great choice.

Determine budget and source of funding

In the US, the cost of the equipment listed in the previous step will currently cost around $275-300 plus shipping and taxes. Look up these items (or the equivalent) and determine the cost to you. (An Oculus Go headset is $199, but you can find others that work with a smart phone for a lot less. There are some great ones with headphones for around $30.)

This cost does not include the computers for editing; it is assumed that the organization you are working with will have computers.

A facilitation fee for the community organization you are working with helps them with administrative costs, electricity, etc., and is a nice gesture of support what will likely be a nonprofit organization if you are grant funded.

You will also need to think about whether the students will receive a stipend. Teens often have to work in out of school time, so providing a stipend might allow them to learn something new and activate their civic voices rather than taking a job.

Consider providing lunch, breakfast, or snacks for the group to keep the energy level up and provide some time for community building.

Will teaching staff be paid? That's part of your budget, too, even if it's you. Assistants or teaching artists might be needed depending on the size of the group you're working with, and of course they'll need to be paid.

Printing costs may also be incurred. Find out whether your community partner is willing to print instructional materials and forms, or whether you'll have to pay for printing.

Set your schedule

You'll need to budget in time for breaks or meals, and allow cushion time at either end of each session for settling in, and pack-up/clean-up time at the end.

If you meet once per week, a minimum of 9 weeks at 2 and a half hours per week is recommended.

If you are running an intensive workshops, over 1 week you'll need at least 5 hours per day for 5 days. For a two week period, 4 hours per day for four days per week should suffice.


Get students to fill out a survey that will give you a baseline for their comfort with technology and videography and will prime them to think about civic issues. Distribute permission forms at this time, too, keeping in mind that those under 18 will need to have them signed by a parent or guardian.

Make sure that everyone, including you and any adults/staff, introduce themselves and say something about an issue they care about.

Students should be given ample time to watch pre-selected 360-degree videos in VR headsets so that they can become familiar with the medium. Let them see videos made by other youth (such as the ones made in PGH in 360 workshops) as well as some professional examples.

Encourage discussion of what worked, what didn't and why or why not 360 was an appropriate medium for the video. Was this story told in a way that made use of the capabilities of 360, or could it just as well have been done in rectangular format? What flaws did they see, and what struck them as cool? Where there any techniques they'd like to replicate?

Make sure to emphasize the theme of making full use of the medium, rather than using the 360 camera just like a regular camera.

In addition to letting them watch 360 videos in class, put together a collection of videos to watch on their own (preferably in a headset), such as the Youth-Created 360 Videos and 360 Videos on Social Issues playlists on the PGH in 360 YouTube channel.

Talk about the issues

One way to start this conversation is to read a summary of issues that came up in the initial class survey.

Introduce the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as global goals that can be applied in local context. This will give them a frame for their ideas and help them to feel that by making their video they're taking part in a larger initiative.

Then ask the students to have a conversation about these and how they affect them--and how they might use 360 video to express their perspectives on these issues.

As the issues begin to emerge, encourage students to make pitches to the group for the issues they want to make a video about.

Get the group to come to a consensus regarding what videos will be made and what the teams will be.

Be sure to advocate for those whose voices might seem to be marginalized in these conversations. Try to make sure everyone takes part and has a chance to talk about their ideas, not letting strong personalities dominate the group.

Planning the video

Give students the opportunity to make their video in any style: documentary, narrative, or experimental. Allow them to be creative in how they communicate their ideas.

Suggest time limits for the final video (3-7 minutes) to help them think about what can be included in it.

They'll need to figure out locations, any other people involved, and props that might be used. Will they need permission to film in certain locations? If people outside the group appear in the video, they'll need signed release forms.

Introduce the camera

Let students get their hands on the cameras, and open the packaging if new equipment has been purchased.

Have them go through the process of inserting the micro SD card, turning on the camera and changing the settings.

Emphasize the importance of keeping the lenses clean and free from scratches.

Make recommendations for settings and make sure students get to test out the cameras. Allow them to film some short clips that you can show them at the next class, giving them a sense of what they film will look like.

Samsung has an extensive guide to camera usage on its website, so if you use the Gear 360, you can have that on hand and share relevant pages with the students.

You might also want to put together a playlist of YouTube videos that introduce the camera and talk about how to use it, such as the Using the Gear 360 playlist on the PGH in 360 YouTube channel.

Let them also experiment with the tripods or selfie sticks you have and get comfortable with putting the cameras and accessories in their cases.


There are storyboarding tools for 360 available online. Print some of these out or create your own for students to use.

It's hard to think about storytelling in 360--we are subject to the tyranny of the rectangle! So make sure they can visualize, even practice acting it out in relation to the camera.

Placement of the stitchline--where the two lenses of the camera back up to one another--is key. Important objects and actors should not be on the stitchline, and anything close to the camera on the stitchline will look distorted.

Likewise, beware of uneven lighting. If there is a brightline, the camera should be placed so that it IS on the stitchline, evening out the lighting across both lenses of the camera.

The microphones on these consumer-grade cameras aren't super sensitive, so be sure that those with speaking roles are lose enough to the camera and speak loudly and clearly enough to be heard. Audio can one of the trickiest things to get right.

Have teams assign roles and responsibilities

While ideally each team member will learn every part of the process, some people will have more inclination to perform certain roles, and things will go more smoothly if the students take on responsibilities in their teams.

For example, someone might be the camera person, responsible for the care, placement, and operation of the camera and the rest of the equipment.

Another should be in charge of recordkeeping, for example, keeping track of how many takes were shot and collecting permissions and permission forms.

A director will set up the action and coach the performers.

Some people might be actors or interviewers.

These roles will sometimes overlap, given the small size of the team, but it will help if everyone knows their role.
Go out and film!

If you are filming in your space, make sure it is free of distractions and interruptions and that the lighting is adequate.

If any teams are leaving the space, they should be accompanied by an adult (who can hide nearby if need be!).

Make sure teams have their list of roles and responsibilities, cheat sheets on camera operation, and the accessories they need.

Keeping to a time schedule can be tough, and things will likely go wrong, so allow at least two sessions for filming.


At the end of the first day, introduce the students to the editing software by having them download the footage they captured and let it start processing. (It may not be ready until the next session.)

Show them how to import files into the software and let them see the stitching process begin. At this point, just seeing the software and a couple of basic operations should suffice for them to start to get to know it.

At the beginning of the next session, let them watch the footage they captured before going out to film again so they'll know if they need to redo anything or if there is something they want to be sure to add.

Depending on time, you can process the footage into a test video for viewing in a VR headset, or just let them view it in equirectangular format in the editing software, giving them a sense of what it will look like when they start to shape it. They'll need to get used to working with the equirectangular view.


Once all the footage has been stitched and imported into the editing workspace, have the students assemble it in the timeline in the order they want to use it.

They'll need to watch it over and over, making notes about where they want to make cuts.

When making cuts, be sure students leave a cushion of a couple of seconds between each clip since transitions added could cover up something they want to be seen or heard in those seconds.

Have students write out exactly what they want opening titles, credits, and intertitles to say, and where intertitles should be placed. Have them check spelling, especially of names.

Show them how to add titles in the editing software, and how to adjust the size and duration of the titles.

Let students choose the transitions they want to use between scenes and between titles and clips and add them to the timeline. The duration of transitions can also be adjusted. Transitions should be added last, after titles.

Ask to review each video before they are processing, and check processing settings to be sure the resolution and codec are correct.

Publish videos

Once the videos have been processed by the editing software and are available as MP4 files, you can upload them to YouTube or Facebook, which support 360 video.

Make sure that the students have access to the channel where the videos are stored, and give them a link that they can add to their resumes to show their work.

Have headsets on hand for the last class so students can watch the videos made by any other teams as well as their own.

It's nice for students to practice public speaking by talking about their videos to the group: the issue and why the chose it, the process they went through, problems encountered and how they overcame them, and what they learned in the process. Time permitting, have every student practice giving such a talk, not just one from each group.

Have students fill out a final survey so that you can learn where the workshop needs improvement and to gauge gains in knowledge, skills, empathy and understanding on the part of the students.

You might want to work with this partner again, so figure out what you could do better.

They may also have heard feedback from the students that you didn't help--this can be a valuable source of information!

Be open to criticism and don't forget to thank partners, funders and supporters.


While it's great to have online platforms such as YouTube and Facebook so that people all around the world can watch videos made by young people in your workshops, it's even better to help them into a headset to watch them with you there (and, with luck, some of the students) to explain 360 and these particular videos.

Look for festivals in your town that like to have interactive entertainment for attendees, or host one yourself.

It's good to have at least one other person familiar with VR to help you get viewers in and out of headsets (many will never have tried VR before) and to explain what the project is all about.

Be patient and prepared to troubleshoot, and be ready to answer questions.

Also have a concise survey on hand to collect feedback on the videos, and provide information about how viewers can support the project.

Part of the purpose of the project is to share youth perspectives with adults in their communities (and beyond) and this is a great opportunity to see what kind of impact the videos have.

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