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Long-form 360 video project provides riveting look at battle for Mosul

Captured in a still image from her 360 video, Middle East Photo Editor Maya Alleruzzo, far left, covers the evacuation of civilians from Mosul, conducted by Maj. Ihab Jalil al-Aboudi, an Iraqi special forces commander, center, in May 2017. (Image from video/Maya Alleruzo)

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Iraqi Humvees wind their way through the pockmarked streets of Mosul. The rattle of gunfire and thud of a nearby airstrike fill the air. Terrified civilians scurry across the road to safety.

In the APs first long-form 360 video project, Middle East Photo Editor Maya Alleruzzo teamed up with video editor Claudia Prat to produce a riveting and harrowing video, “House to House: The Battle for Mosul.” The 8-minute video earns Alleruzzo the Beat of the Week.

Alleruzzo was embedded with Iraq’s Counter Terrorism forces for three weeks in May and followed an Iraqi field commander and his unit as they sought to wrest control of western Mosul from Islamic State fighters.

Accompanied by a short text story and photos,her video was shot with special cameras that record images in 360 degrees,for an immersive viewing experience. Alleruzzo first tried using the 360 camera during a tour with Iraqi special forces in April and was so impressed by what she recorded,she took it to New York to show it to Prat and Nathan Griffiths, former Interactives producer. They devised a plan to develop a long-form video that produced a character-driven story. It included scenes of a family sheltered at home just a few blocks from the front line as well as soldiers in battle.

“360 is the ideal medium for combat … stills on the rooftop were good but couldn’t capture the scene like 360.” – Maya Alleruzzo

The AP used three 360 cameras in case one crashed. One camera was clamped to a bulldozer that ended up getting hit by a car bomb just after it left the house where Alleruzzo had taken shelter.

“Compared to a still photo assignment,360 is the ideal medium for combat,” Alleruzzo said. “The stills on the rooftop were good but couldn’t really capture the scene like the 360. Here, you can see the airstrike and the soldiers watching it while getting ready to shoot at other targets.”

The video was taken at a time when Islamic State militants were using drones to drop grenades or to spot Iraqi soldiers’ locations to fire mortars,

An important part of the video was finding the right commander. Baghdad Correspondent Susannah George,who has nurtured a good relationship with Iraqi special forces,arranged access to Major Ihab Jalil al-Aboudi. He was chosen because field commanders have very hands-on jobs and his team was engaged in the heaviest fighting at the time. He also stood out because he was charismatic. His presence was reassuring to fleeing civilians and he had a sense of style, too: He kept a comb in his pocket to keep his mustache looking fresh.

The video won widespread play with 100,000 Facebook views and more than 34,000 on YouTube.

Though the AP had an initial conversation about the project,the Iraqi officers didn’t understand the camera,which is small and looks like a toy. Each day,the access was negotiated again.

The video won widespread play with 100,000 Facebook views and more than 34,000 on YouTube.

For her innovative video that captured both intimate and panoramic scenes of the liberation of Mosul, Alleruzzo earns this week’s $500 prize.

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