Staff Blog: Mucking about with 360 VideoSphere VR (& boats) Part 4

This is the last in a series sharing lessons learnt producing a short VideoSphere (360 Virtual Reality) film for the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

In the last update, the team completed our shoot on Melbourne Regatta Day aboard the tall sailing ship Enterprize, capturing content from a 19th century costumed musician, to a fire-fighting boat shooting jets of water into the air.

We were about to discover the differences between editing regular footage and editing in a 360 VR environment.

VideoSphere (360 VR) film is captured on multiple cameras running at the same time. Unlike regular footage and even computer generated (CG) virtual environments, this footage from different cameras must be “stitched” together to create a sphere.

Stitching usually requires specialist software which in this case came with the Samsung Gear 360, so the camera owners (the festival) managed this. If using a different camera check this out before you buy. You may notice that live 360 video on Facebook and YouTube doesn’t seem to need it – some two-lens devices can stitch as they go.

The greater the number of lenses your device has, the higher the quality of the end-product. The periphery of a fisheye may be distorted, and there may be a noticeable difference in exposure if adjacent lenses face dramatically different light levels. E.g. direct sun versus full shade; see the images below.

Showing the difference in exposure, and overlap of alignment, between two fisheye cameras
You’ll be dealing with some very large files – think Gigabytes. After exchanging DropBox files and physical USB sticks we had the stitched footage ready to edit.

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I went through all our footage, and wrote a rough narrative sequence featuring the best shots and sound, as a starting point for Nadia and Andrew. We bought a one-month subscription to Adobe Premiere Pro (it is memory intensive so check the system requirements first to be sure your computer can handle it).

Whether it’s CG VR or VideoSphere, with immersive 360 you will need to think carefully about how you cut. In conventional video you can start the action at the same point on the screen that the last shot ended on, because you know exactly the field of view.

With 360 and VR, each user will have a different field of view when a shot transitions. They’ll be facing forward, backwards, even the ground beneath them. So, if you cut straight to action you cannot be sure they’ll see it.

360 AudioSphere sound (see the last two posts) can be used to call attention to the action. However, even without 360 sound, ambient noise such as music can be used to create continuity across shots.

Our narrative was a simple sequence designed to flow cohesively rather than a story, so the lack of directional sound was not a deal-breaker. Andrew and Nadia carried music from the ship’s band from one shot into the next to ease the viewer across cuts.

With luck the most painful part of our experience will benefit you.

Some great footage was captured by strapping the camera to a yard-arm high above the deck. The Bolte Bridge appears to slide over the Enterprize as she sails below. Passengers and crew can be seen from above and one climbs the rigging.

Because the camera had to be mounted sideways for this shot so that the thick yard-arm did not obscure the ship below it, the footage is also sideways. You might expect the Samsung Gear 360 to automatically orient the footage, the way that the screen on a Samsung mobile device does… you’d be wrong.

Adobe Premiere is a great tool, but VideoSphere and the concepts of editing in Virtual Reality worlds are still new. Frustratingly it could not rotate the footage. There is specialist software available but it required a full year’s subscription at around US$250. For a minute of footage on a non-profit endeavour this is as much overkill as shooting an albatross with a ship’s cannon.

Then the festival organisers offered to rotate it for us, problem solved

Problems rarely turn up without bringing a friend. The festival was more work than expected for the organisers’ technical staff and rotating our footage was low on their list of priorities. As the start of the festival approached they advised they were unable to follow through on the offer. This was a dilly of a pickle because the delay meant it was now too late to reshoot the footage. We beat the social media bushes to flush out a solution

Marianna Makówka, the festival General Manager, was tenacious. She worked tirelessly to find a solution by asking around her network. Ed Bellamy from Staples VR, came to our rescue and rotated the footage, a generous gesture given this was on top of his paid workload.

After a few storms, we were safe in harbour. It was hard work but a great experience. VideoSphere is here to stay, so why don’t you give it a try?

  1. Part 1 of this Series:
  2. Our final 360 VideoSphere of the Tall Ship Enterprize:
  3. For an immersive experience and ease of use try using a Google Cardboard headset and selecting this icon in YouTube

The future is here – create your own augmented reality experiences

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