Aftermath VR: Euromaidan is an immersive documentary project about the Euromaidan Revolution in Kyiv, Ukraine.
On the morning of February 20, 2014, government police forces opened fire with live ammunition against protesters armed with bats and makeshift wooden shields. Fifty people were killed in the bloodshed.
We reconstruct the street where the violence took place, as it is today using photogrammetry and CGI. Viewers of the experience retrace the same path protesters took as they reclaimed the street from police forces. They explore the story through archival footage, 360° video interviews with eyewitnesses and scanned artifacts from the Euromaidan. Viewers will explore the story by physically walking up the street revealing the narrative that is tied to specific places where certain events took place.
Aftermath VR was a recipient of the Journalism 360 Challenge Grant in 2017, which is funded by Google News Lab, Knight Foundation and Online News Association.
Aftermath VR: Euromaidan teaser trailer
We are a cross-disciplinary team of visual journalists, designers, 3D artists and developers who came together in 2016 to work on editorial and commercial immersive projects. In 2013 - 2014, we covered and lived through the Euromaidan Revolution. We feel a personal obligation to inform and educate people about the events of February 20, 2014, both in Ukraine and internationally.
We live in the era of pervasive visual communication, where ostentatious visuals tend to be seen by more people and, therefore, establish a warped image of what actually happened. We believe that the story of the Euromaidan, which was full of dynamic and viciously cruel events, was especially prone to a non-objective portrayal in the media.
Why is this project important?
Aftermath VR: Euromaidan utilizes various media to tell an immersive, meaningful and cohesive story that contextualizes the revolution for viewers as they engage with the virtual space where historic events actually happened.
First, we believe Aftermath VR: Euromaidan is a remarkable example for other visual storytellers and documentarians, who are searching for new means of telling crucial stories.
Second, we believe it is important for VR enthusiasts, gamers and developers, who are exploring the new frontiers of this medium. We prove that VR is more than a form of entertainment. It can also be used to educate and increase a viewer’s understanding of an event on a more visceral level than traditional media.
Third, it is imperative for journalists, democracy activists and those who care about human rights issues to learn from our storytelling techniques and use a similar approach to engage with audiences on crucial issues from their region of the world.
Aftermath VR: Euromaidan gameplay trailer
Why are we asking for your support?
So far we have completed about two-thirds of the work both on the three-dimensional model of Instytutska Street in downtown Kyiv as well as the storyline. We now need your support to:
- finish the three-dimensional model of the street
- finalize the storyline
- scan additional artifacts
- license supplementary footage
- polish and debug the experience
Aftermath VR: Euromaidan is room scale experience featuring six degrees of freedom (6DoF). Meaning a viewer in a VR headset can physically move around in a virtual space, walking and leaning in any direction they choose as their perspective changes, as if in real life.
Photogrammetry of the street
Photogrammetry is a technique of taking multiple photographs of real world objects or spaces from various angles (referred to as scanning an object) that are then stitched together in a computer to create a 3D model. We utilized this method and shot hundreds of thousands of photographs of Instytutska Street in Kyiv, where the violence occurred in order to build an accurate documentary 3D model of the street and Independence Square.
To tell the story we use archival photographs and video footage shot by Ukrainian and international media. These images appear in the exact places where they were shot and you can often superimpose the image to your surroundings.
Video interviews in 360°
We recorded spherical video interviews with participants and eyewitnesses of the shooting in the exact locations where they were that morning. Five of these interviews are in the current beta version. The final version will feature at least nine interviews.
Photogrammetry of Euromaidan artifacts
We scanned various objects that were used by protesters and police, such as helmets, shields, clubs, pieces of broken cobblestone, barrels and other objects.
On November 21, 2013, Ukrainians opposed to the sudden decision of the Ukrainian government not to sign a long planned Association Agreement with the EU, gathered on Kyiv’s Independence Square, also referred to as the Maidan. Spearheaded by civil society leaders and actively supported by students, it was brutally dispersed by riot police in the early morning hours of November 30. Afterward, approximately 1 million Ukrainians gathered for a rally on December 1, reoccupied Independence Square, and clashed with police near the Presidential Administration building. Violent standoffs between protesters and police increased in severity over many weeks and led to the first deaths of demonstrators during clashes on January 22, 2014.
A new wave of violence began on February 18, 2014 when protesters marched to the government district near parliament. Violent clashes quickly ensued and a riot police counter-attack took some of the protesters’ positions later that afternoon on Instytutska Street, which connects Independence Square to the government district. The following day was filled with tension, yet remained relevantly calm.
February 20, 2014
At about 8:30 in the morning on February 20, riot police on the square, began pulling back to the government district. Protesters, who had wooden clubs and shields in their hands, followed them and began reclaiming their positions on Instytutska Street. Police fired on the demonstrators with live ammunition. Forty-seven protesters and three policemen were killed in the bloodshed, the majority of them within three hours. Several days later, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country to Russia.
Despite the fact that numerous professional and citizen journalists documented the shooting, the events of that morning are still besieged by lies and conspiracy theories, including those produced by Russian state controlled media. There are only several journalistic and documentary projects that explore the indiscriminate killings of demonstrators.
Demo versions of Aftermath VR: Euromaidan have already shown at various journalistic conferences in Ukraine and abroad, including the Journalism 360 Unconference in NYC, Lviv Media Forum, Misinfocon Kyiv and Login Conference in Vilnius, Lithuania. This gave us invaluable feedback that led to enormous improvements of the project user experience.
From July 24 to August 31, 2018, an English beta version of the project was available at VR World, North America’s largest space for viewing virtual reality experiences.
Beginning September 13, 2018, Ukrainian and English beta versions of Aftermath VR: Euromaidan will be screened at Planeta VR, a virtual reality space of the "Planeta Kino" Ukrainian cinema chain. Viewers will be able to experience our project for free.
Receiving your support through Kickstarter will allow us to complete the project and present the full version on November 21, 2018 at Ukraine’s premier museum Mystetskyi Arsenal during the Euromaidan Museum exhibit commemorating the fifth anniversary of the revolution.
In late 2018, after extensive testing and debugging, we plan to upload Aftermath VR: Euromaidan to Viveport and Steam, VR app stores, as a free download.
Alexey Furman is the project lead of Aftermath VR: Euromaidan and a co-founder of New Cave Media. He is an award-winning freelance photojournalist and holds an MA from the Missouri School of Journalism, where he studied on a Fulbright Grant. Alexey covered the Euromaidan revolution, the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the war in East Ukraine in 2013/2014 for various national and international media outlets, and received multiple awards for his work, including POYi, NPPA's BOP and Bayeux-Calvados Award for War Correspondents.
Sergiy Polezhaka the director of Aftermath VR: Euromaidan and a co-founder of New Cave Media. Since the beginning of the Euromaidan Revolution, he primarily contributed to Europe's largest newspaper Bild. Accompanied by a newspaper journalist, he produced video and photo stories about the war in eastern Ukraine. He has covered breaking news, including the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down over separatist held territory in 2014 killing all 298 people onboard. After New Cave Media received the Journalism 360 Challenge Grant, Sergiy focused on building a user experience and interactive storyline for Aftermath VR: Euromaidan.
Joseph Sywenkyj is the producer of Aftermath VR: Euromaidan. Joseph is an American photographer of Ukrainian descent and a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York. Among his many awards, Joseph was the recipient of the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography in 2014. From 2014-2016 Joseph was a Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine documenting severely wounded Ukrainian soldiers and activists. Joseph’s photographs have appeared in many of the world’s most respected publications. His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums including Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland; Les Rencontres d’Arles in Arles, France; George Eastman House in Rochester, New York and the United Nations Visitor’s Lobby in New York City among many other venues.
Sergiy Korovayny is the assistant director of the project. Sergiy is a photojournalist, who has worked with Ukrainian and international media outlets, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, KyivPost, The Ukrainians, RosRasil and Bird in Flight. He is currently working on an MA in visual communications at Syracuse University through a Fulbright Grant.
Kirill Zhylinsky is the UI/UX designer of the project and a co-founder of New Cave Media. Kirill is a graphic and web designer with more than ten years of international experience. He holds a Bachelor of Communication Design from the Salvador Dali Art Institute
Nikita Yurenev is the photogrammery head of the project.
Anastasiia Trepyton is the developer of the project.
Liza Nesterenko, Oleksandr Tsyndrovskyi, Artem Yudin, Yurii Repilenko, Dmytro Yeremenko, Ilya Lukianov are the 3D artists who worked on the project.
Yaroslava Drutsa is the senior multimedia editor of the project.
Daria Zubrytska and Maria Savosukula are multimedia editors of the project.
Stanislav Kozliuk is an investigative journalist who worked on the project.
Nick Bohdanov is the communications manager of the project.
Photogrammetry was shot by Alexey Furman, Sergiy Polezhaka, Joseph Sywenyj, Nikita Yurenev and Kirill Zhylinsky.
Drone photogrammetry was shot by Yevhen Maloletka, Mykhaylo Shelest and Kirill Zhylinsky.
Risks and challenges
Aftermath VR: Euromaidan is a challenging project that combines sophisticated visual storytelling and innovative technology. Most of the things that we are working on in the project have never been accomplished before, such as reconstructing a massive urban area in great detail in virtual reality. We are happy to say that many challenges that we had in the beginning, including putting together a cross-disciplinary team of journalists, photogrammetry specialists, videographers, 3d artists, and virtual reality developers, have been solved, and that we have built a steady pipeline.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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