#1080: Targo Stories is Pushing Forward Immersive 360 Video Storytelling with “Surviving 9/11: 27 Hours Under the Rubble”

Targo Stories has created a number of really well-produced and well-told immersive stories using the 360 VR video medium over the past three years. Their latest co-production with Meta is Surviving 9/11: 27 Hours Under the Rubble, which premiered in September 2021 marking the 20-year anniversary, but it was also selected as one of the immersive stories showing at SXSW.

On the last day of the SXSW XR Experience exhibition, there was a Tweet that went viral showing two people in VR headsets in front of the Surviving 9/11 poster, and the original poster mistakenly thought this was a video game that Meta had paid to exhibit at the SXSW expo in order to promote VR. The tweet was ultimately deleted after learning that it was an immersive documentary curated by SXSW, but it had already quickly spread as most people generally associate VR headsets with gaming. It catalyzed a broader discussion about how this poster and experience came about, and I had already scheduled an oral history interview with the creators to capture the story of journey and how this project came about.

Targo Stories started having their experiences executive produced by Oculus Studios in 2019 after they published The Man Behind Notre Dame, and the cathedral of Notre-Dame burned down. They followed up with the contacts they had made with the staff of Notre-Dame to be able to capture 360 footage documenting the damage from the fire for a piece called Rebuilding Notre Dame.

Then after the onset of the pandemic Targo Stories produced a four-part series When We Stayed Home that contrasted historic 360 footage of tourist areas in the four cities of Paris, Venice, Tokyo, and Jerusalem with the empty streets that happened around the world for the COVID-19 quarantine lock-downs in April 2020.

Targo Stories collaborated again with Meta on Surviving 9/11: 27 Hours Under the Rubble documenting the story of the last survivor of Genelle Guzman McMillan, who was the last person rescued after the Twin Towers crashed down. This immersive documentary includes the technical innovation of converting 2D panoramic photos of NYC in the 1990s into fully immersive, layered stereoscopic photo spheres, which are able to provide the feeling of time travel back to a previous era. The documentary as features CGI recreations inside of the Twin Towers, but also stereoscopic 360 video footage of McMillan returning to the 9/11 Memorial for the first time.

I had a chance to catch up with Targo Stories Director Chloé Rochereuil and Producer Victor Agulhon on March 16th at the end of my SXSW journey to capture more about all of these 360 immersive documentaries as well unpacking some of the misconceptions and misunderstandings about how VR only being about gaming, while they are pushing the limits for how VR can be used as an immersive storytelling medium.

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Music: Fatality