My background is photojournalism so I have a very keen interest in storytelling.
One of the opportunities that new technology has bought has been 360 panoramic photography and more recently 360 panoramic video which might just be the ultimate storytelling tool.
The definition of 360 video is recording a video in 360 degrees simultaneously.
Think of being able to show every part of the scene and not just the part straight in front of the camera, in many ways it seems to be impossible tantalising but it is very doable.
You can achieve this in a couple of ways – with an integrated camera, for example like the Ricoh Theta or with a rig of four or more GoPro’s or similar action cameras.
With the multi camera rig you then have to synchronise the footage and stick it together with software such as Kolor’s AVP or PTGui, there are others out there but these are just two that I have actually used.
It is worth pointing out thought that the options for shooting 360 video in a year or so will be different with some of the big players and Kickstarter companies promising new integrated cameras, so I hope and expect to see some of these soon.
In fact 360 VR technology is moving SO fast that barely a week goes by without a new development in the field which changes things for the better.
The biggest step forward in recent times for the 360 video cause has been that YouTube supports full 360 x 180 video playback which works brilliantly on the iOs app and android phones as you might expect. For the time being full 360 playback with navigation is limited to Google Chrome on a desktop machine, but surely it can only be a matter of time before more browsers support 360 x 180 playback.
The big future for consuming 360 video though could very well be the raft of 360 degree viewing solutions based on headsets.
The media darling of the moment is the Oculus Rift which is owned by Facebook, which as yet as not hit the streets but has a scheduled release date of Q1 2016.
If you don’t want to wait until then you could opt for the Samsung Galaxy Gear, designed for Samsung phones which just slot in and which works very well indeed.
The solution I have been using is the Zeiss VR One headset which is works with Android phones but also my iPhone 6 too.
It proved to be a hit with the local police when I was at South By South West in Austin Texas earlier this year.
There are many, many players in the market at the moment so you just have choose the solution which works best for you and your pocket.
More than anything 360 video it’s about choosing the right subject matter, something were objects aren’t too far away
Why is this a factor?
The 360 video rig which use, by 360 Hero’s utilises seven GoPro cameras and the GoPro camera utilises an exceptionally wide angle, under 3mm in fact so if the object is too far away it will barely be visible at all.
I’ve always been interested in motorsport so when the opportunity came along to place the camera on a 1950s Grand Prix racing car during a race I leapt at the chance.
But how to mount the camera to the car?
As you might imagine stability is very, very, important indeed -you are not just stabilising a single camera remember.
What made it even more challenging is that unlike a modern road car the suspension of a 1950s Cooper Grand Prix car has no rubber on the joints which means the ride is very firm indeed and when the car is going at full speed the vibration is quite something else – much more than I had anticipated.
A good starting point of attaching a camera to just about anything is the Manfrotto super clamp, a piece of equipment which is never far away during my most ambitious shoots wether its attaching lights, cameras or just about anything at all to anything else – which happens to be nearby via the clever ‘jaws’ which enable you to fit it to either a square piece of tubing or a round piece of tubing by removing a small plastic wedge.
To move the camera away from the car a little we used a piece of aluminium tubing with a Gitzo Centre ball head G0077
Audio was a serious consideration too, if you are relying on the camera mic as it is exposed to buffeting from the audio can be very disappointing so we mounted the audio recorder a Zoom H4N to the chassis inside the car out of the way of all the buffeting, it give great audio, needless to say we secured this with a Manfrotto super clamp -its a good job I bought a couple of them along…..
We ended up synchronising the audio manually in post which took much longer than we thought it would – much like everything else in 360 video.
Lining up before the formation lap is always nerve wracking for the driver I am sure but I was possibly more nervous than he was as I had worked on the planning for the shoot for some weeks and even with the best will in the world there is a lot to go wrong – never mind the long drive to the South of France.
Watching the cars race on the quite beautiful Pau street circuit I had just about everything crossed hoping it would all go according to plan.
When the car and driver both returned safely to the pits I breathed a sigh of relief that everything was where it should be (though the rig was secured buy safety line too so even if the worse had happened the camera would have not fallen from the car)
When you have shot 360 video then comes the difficult part -waiting to see if it has worked and we only knew that a few days later after the long drive back to the UK – we could have got some sort of idea form the laptop but the race was over and nothing could be done even if it had not worked out.
Overall I’m pleased with the finished result and as far as I know its the first ever 360 video shot at the Pau Gp circuit during a race.
My favourite part of the video is looking back to the cars chasing behind, and enjoying the engine note and gear changes( a petrol head, me? I don’t know what you mean)
What 360 adventure is coming next? Watch this space as I hope to share something which is altogether more hair raising, very soon indeed.