One upside to temporary unemployment is that you have a chance to (a) finally reflect on recent African adventures, and (b) find the time to muck around with some new multimedia skills.

One of the most memorable experiences of my latest trip was documenting life in a South Sudanese refugee camp. Yusuf Batil is just one of four camps in the very north of the world’s newest nation – not far from the Sudanese border.


In the last year, over 100,000 Sudanese have fled aerial bombardments in their home state of Blue Nile.

Over 40,000 live in Yusuf Batil camp alone.

Now I’ll be writing more about the camps themselves in the near future, but what I couldn’t get my head around was how to SHARE the experience of camp life.


We’ve all seen reporters doing their stand-up pieces that bookend TV reports with the camp as a nice backdrop…but I was always left wondering ‘but what is camp life really like?’. What do people do during the day? What’s the layout of a camp? More interestingly, what does a camp SOUND like?

It turns out that life in Batil is very much like any other African village. Women gather to talk and laugh at the borehole – the proverbial water cooler for North American audiences – and other refugees sell their wares at the local market or ready their evening meals in their makeshift, tented compounds.

So I wanted a way to share this with YOU. But how to do that?

Sadly I didn’t have the budget to buy 4 GoPro cameras to take a 360 degree panoramic video. So I took the poor man’s way out. I simply used a wide angle lens, a tripod, an audio recorder, Photoshop and some nifty javascript code.

The result? Four 360 degree scanoramic audio-visual vistas of camp life: the borehole, market, main road and family compound.

You simply use your mouse to drag the to explore the scanorama whilst also hearing the sounds from the same scene.

It’s basic for sure, and while I can undoubtedly improve upon the technique for next time, I think this helps immerse an audience into environments that are alien for most consumers of news. This doesn’t just have to be a refugee camp – it could be an operating room, or the floor of the stock exchange.

Scanoramas could be just one more tool in the modern journalist’s toolkit – a new innovative way to allow their readers to immerse themselves in the story, to broaden their understanding of conditions on the ground, to elicit empathy.