New York Times R&D team describes 3D journalism [SXSW 2021] Bigumigu

The New York Times, published daily since 1851, has been one of the world’s leading newspapers for centuries. Although the place is very solid; As technology advances, the way we experience media and journalism naturally also changes. Keeping up with the changing times and keeping up R&D Team members play an important role in developing technologies that have the potential to revolutionize the way we create and experience news and advertising. The team behind famous graphics, virtual reality movies and stories set in augmented reality (AR) told SXSW 2021 how they created “3D journalism” with the technologies they applied.

New York Times R&D director Marc Lavallee, advertising director Seb Tomich, and subject matter experts Monica Drake and Danielle Betras shed a behind-the-scenes light on how things work at this famous newspaper.

New York Times R&D Room

Lavallee said R&D, in close collaboration with the newsroom, focused on concepts we often hear about, such as 5G, AI, and blockchain. Stating that they are constantly looking for new opportunities to test new technologies, Lavallee says that this process requires incredible teamwork. For example, Drake, the New York Times Head of Special Projects, is responsible for delivering and overseeing these R&D-captured opportunities to people with masterful storytelling.


How does 5G technology affect journalism?

The speakers especially focused on 5G. For example, for the past few years, the newsroom and graphical desk of the New York Times have used this technique called photogrammetry, which makes a 3D model of something by taking and combining many photos. However, due to these bandwidth limitations, what they could do was limited, Lavallee said. With 5G technology He says maybe they can reconstruct an entire city with photogrammetry. In doing this, he says, of course we have to consider the value of the news.

How the New York Times portrayed an artist’s home in this way you can see from this link.

Before 5G, the newsroom was slower and more cumbersome, says the New York Times team. Tomich stated that since they work with so many photographers, there are thousands of streams; He says that getting started with 5G makes this flow a lot easier. For example, this year they were able to take more than 6,000 photos in a few hours, which is four times faster than the previous year.


As another example, they cited 41 employees and photographers from across the country during the 2020 election. Ensuring healthy communication among this crowded team is not an easy task, compiling images, posting stories faster, and delivering them to readers, but they stated that They can get ahead of other publishers with 5G.

AR and journalism

Besides these augmented reality it is one of the technologies they use in writing. “Augmented reality is a great tool that allows us to better communicate to the world through journalism. We first started using technology during the 2018 Winter Olympics. “Using AR to describe how athletes perform, how movements are performed, is much better than just words and still images,” he says. For example, they also recreated the lunar landing experience and the Apollo 11 moon landing.


Lavallee also mentioned another great project, Spark AR. Spark is a new Facebook platform. Thinking about how to do immersive visual journalism, they formed an association. One of their jobs together is to show how effective masks are and how they work. Reviving molecules and showing how coronavirus particles get trapped outside the mask was not something we could do with “dry journalism,” Lavallee says.

In addition, scene by scene is infused with technologies such as computer vision that allow us to understand exactly what is happening. They work with the newsroom to capture these details and turn them into stories.

The New York Times and others

Chief Strategy Officer Danielle Betras is responsible for the right partnerships and these relationships add value to the company. “At the New York Times we have a fixed vision and we are ambitious, but sometimes we lack technology or experience. In projects that we cannot do alone, we receive help from other companies ”, says Betras.


For example, you are working with Google to digitize the New York Times archive. This archive is a huge room that contains more than 6 million physical photographs. They needed to digitize these photos to make them accessible to their journalists around the world. Of course, not only the photographs, but also information such as who is the photographer behind the photographs and when he took them. Thanks to Google’s metadata technologies, they managed to bring this project to life by working together.

Of course, the New York Times is unlikely to be fully 3D anytime soon. However, the R&D team guarantees that they will do inspiring work along the way.

Picture: SXSW 2021

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