This little device is one step into the future of how we will see the stories of the world. Being a filmmaker I am always trying to figure out what is the next step. A couple years ago Peter Jackson decided to film one of the Lord of the Rings movies in 48fps, the public did not like the way it looked. James Cameron shot Avatar in 3d and created new technology to bring it to the next level; while 3d is still around and filmmakers still try to incorporate it, it hasn’t become the standard.
Faced with the challenge of trying to offer unique perks to contributors for my indiegogo I stumbled across this little gem, the 360fly. At first I thought it seemed like another novelty item. I thought, “this is just another gopro; a cool camera with great marketing hype but the average person wont know what to do with it.” Then something clicked in my head, how cool would it be to bring our contributors on an immersive journey with us overseas while we are doing our humanitarian work. The plan is to make lots of short 2 minute clips of us and post it to a page where people can view this stuff. I have been asked in the past to make 360 degree videos for showcasing real estate. At the time it was very expensive and the affordable options didn’t have a very universal video player (meaning that it wouldn’t work on everyone’s computer or phone).
Step back a year ago I helped shoot a video in San Francisco for topcoder. This was the first time I had the opportunity to use Oculus rift. A 3d printer company had brought the Oculus rift as well as a haptic feedback device to use for a competition to win a 3d printer. You had to play the game Jenga but on Mars with the gravity of mars. Using the haptic feedback device you would grab a block, pull it out and place it on top of the other blocks. When you did this you could feel the block’s weight, you could feel resistance when you pulled it out of the stack and you could feel it when you placed it on the top. All the while you are wearing Oculus rift goggles which are virtual reality goggles that use motion sensors to orient the virtual world when you move your head. It was pretty cool! The connection for the 3d printing company and all these cool tools wasn’t just for competition but also their idea was people could build 3d objects in virtual reality using these devices and then print it. This event had many tech giants in it including google. They were all there recruiting coders who were competing at the event. What was interesting about google is they were demonstrating their cardboard google goggles that could turn your phone into an oculus rift VR viewer. Suddenly it was starting to click that if google is putting this tech out there for cheap, that means that it will only be a matter of time before youtube has the ability to show 360 immersive video.
Fast forward 6 months. I was filming in Rhode Island at the Volvo Open Ocean Race. I learned about a lot of very cool new things there. When I was there periscope was just getting traction and only worked on Apple. We worked closely with all the marketing and media teams from around the world. It was a cornucopia of media specialist from all reaches of the globe hired by high tech companies to represent their teams. As I was walking out the door to do some filming I bumped into this young guy carrying what looked like a jumbled ball of gopros. He told me it was a 12k (not $12k but resolution) 360 degree virtual reality camera system. He then pulled out a pair of goggles, placed a samsung phone into them and showed me how the programming was intelligent enough to use the motion sensors in your phone for virtual viewing. The goggles were used to allow for stereoscopic viewing. It was unreal! Here is what they were upto Volvo Open Ocean Race 360 Video
Forward to today. I thought I was being pretty clever with this new 360fly and using it for my documentary but my ego was humbled when I went to LA on friday. Long interesting story on why we were up there but i’ll save that for another post. After a long exciting and eventful day we ended up at a holiday party for 44Blue Productions where we met Rasha and Stephanie. Stephanie sat down with us and started talking about what they have been upto and what’s going on in the filmmaking world. Then she started to talk about virtual reality and how they have been at the forefront of it for a while now (developing apps). She went on to tell us about how the New York Times recently launched NYT VR. She said she got her sunday newspaper and in it came the cardboard google VR goggles. Then she uploaded the app onto her phone, put her phone into the goggles and watched a short doc about children around the world who have been displaced by war or violence. After hearing her explain what she saw and how she saw it I realized this is the future. We are going to be entering an age where we are literally immersed in the stories we watch.
Here is an example of embedding this type of footage from youtube
For the project that we have coming up I think it will be very interesting to share with people not only how we filmed the documentary but also what it was like to be there. I figured out a way to rig the 360fly to the documentary camera.