‘Tis the season!

Every day after Thanksgiving, for the past 104 years, my little home of Doylestown, PA holds a grand tree lighting and Santa arrival to mark the start of the Holiday Season. Thousands crowd the small borough streets to see the spectacle. Like a Norman Rockwell scene. I have become involved by providing social media video coverage. This year I really wanted to try to capture it in 360 with my six camera GoPro system. I found a street sign to mount it to on a long painter pole right next to the tree…..in the center of the action. The challenge was that I had to set it up, leave it alone for two hours……and hope for the best! At first I thought my external batteries weren’t going to work right. Despite my testing earlier in the week, one of the batts wasn’t staying on to power the cameras. And my remote was acting glitchy. I should mention it was also quite cold that day. So I decided to start them recording early, and hope for the best.

The six camera GoPro HERO5 Session system mounted at the center of event action.

My mounting spot worked out great–I was worried about people crowding around and touching the street pole, but it turned out to be a mostly off limits area for crowd. Fast forward to the end of event, and all six cameras were still running! As you can see from my desktop screen, a perfect stitch, and a great viewpoint!

Before I was able to work on the 360 video, I needed to complete what was my main task of capturing the event with “traditional video.” For this, the 360 footage provided me with great views captured all at once, which I could edit into the main video by cropping whatever viewpoint I wanted to show. I was able to pan the crowd, for example. The clip below shows which scenes were actually from the 360 system. Hard to tell from a traditional “single view” video camera.

With one camera system locked in one location, I created a video that appeared to have many more angles and viewpoints. I love the creativeness I have available during post. This is an application of 360 systems that I plan to explore more. One locked down camera system in the center of the event–choose your shots in post later.

Workflow:

Back in my home office-I first transferred the videos from all six cameras using GoPro Quik. Then it was time to open up a project in Autopano Video (a real pity they are discontinuing this great software). Since I had several clips from each camera, all meant to be merged into a single 2hr long video, I merged them. Each of the six 2 hour vids- 48GB. I have realized that I want Santa to get me more disk space this year!

After merging, I synched, then stitched into an equilateral projection (think of a globe that’s been unwrapped and flattened).

Stitching went well. I had an obnoxious seam right in between a prominent street sign, that I could mask around using AutoPano’s masking tools. With a fixed camera, fairly easy to do. Mask once–entire scene done. Overall, I was pleased with the quality that was captured in difficult lighting conditions. Even though I have invented a 360 lighting device, it wasn’t going to be able to light the entire street!

Once I was ready to render out of Autopano, I wanted to maintain the highest output I could. So I rendered the 8Kish file (7858×3929) as ProRes LT. I split the render into three vids to make it somewhat less unruly. Still, each rendered 8K was about 480GB!

Now time for actual editing, via Final Cut Pro X, which has been doing very well implementing full 360 video editing. As I have been working on these projects, I think I’ve started to develop “my look and feel” for 360. I like the look at embedding titles as part of the scene, and not just as an overlay. I used this technique for the video’s own title, which is a constant element on an old store sign prominent in the camera view (was a Starbucks logo).

Replacing a business sign with the title of the event.

In the case of featuring what was a live public event, I condensed it, but in what was still long segments. The viewer, whether via screen or headset, needs time to orient to what is being presented…to look around. So when the town Mayor gave the introduction, I showed his entire speech without editing. Jump cutting speech I don’t think works well in this medium. Neither does fast changing scenes. Between each of my scenes is extra padding-a few extra seconds before the choir starts singing, for example. I like to let the viewer have enough time to figure out where they want to look at before they need to pay attention to the content. I think this worked well here.

You may be wondering about the audio. It is a mix of the audio from one of the Session cameras, with audio recorded directly from the sound crew onto an iPad, and synched manually.

Once editing was complete, time to render! Since I had constant graphic elements and a detail sharpen filter, this would take a while. Like about 14 hours!

Producing 360 content seems to be about 90% rendering!

The end results are well worth it, especially as 8K playback gets more commonplace. I’m pleased to present my town’s annual tradition to a new VR audience. The finished video below, up to 4K quality.

If your hardware is capable, you can stream the full 8K resolution on YouTube.

And I can’t forget about my sales pitch. If you have a need for 360 photography/video of a live event, real estate or travel showcase, documentary, etc. I am available in the Greater Philadelphia region. Contact me through this site, and follow me on the social media links!

More power for 360!

One of the services I want to provide is the ability to record longer form 360/VR video. Six independent GoPros with internal only batteries gives me a record time of just over an hour before needing to recharge them. Makes it hard to sit them there for a two hour concert doesn’t it!  I found some great USB power packs that work great! IXCC Power Bank 20000mAh. Two USB ports handle two cameras.

My 3D printed battery holder mount holds the batteries to power the cameras all day if necessary.

I use three power packs to handle all six–I can run the GoPros for most of a day with this setup. Next thing I wanted was easy mounting and portability. They need something to mount to, preferably in the nadir viewpoint of the cameras, which I would be normally masking out during post anyway. So I designed a holder that mounts underneath. Putting my 3D printer to work for 25 hours, and I have a nice one-piece battery holder. This is much more elegant than taping the batteries to the tripod.

Incidentally, by “tripod” I mean that I use either a mic stand, or standard production light stand. 360 cameras don’t normally need to be on a pan/tilt tripod.

This battery mount also works well with my CL360: my Patent Pending 360/VR production lighting instrument. Click on the link to find out more about that. Now I’m ready to produce 360 Video/VR content! Contact me for details in the Philadelphia region.

Battery mount also works with my patent pending lighting system.

360 Photo in a Photo Art Exhibition

Recently, I entered some of my “cropped 360” photos into a local photography exhibition. Cropped 360 photos are flattened single viewpoints of a 360 image, able to be presented to a  2D photo world as traditional photography is. Of 4 images I presented, one was chosen for the print exhibition, where it will be hanging on a wall amongst many fantastic photography art from the best in the area. I shot this with a Ricoh THETA S camera, and manipulated it through their software to create the final effect. Here is the finished image selected for the exhibition, along with the happy news I received in my e-mail:

This is the control panel of a TV Production Switcher, specifically a Grass Valley Kayenne, from the US Mobile Unit I work on as a broadcast engineer. Of the 4 images I entered, this was the one I least expected would get it, and it turned out to be the only one to make it. I’m humbled to share the wall space with truly great photographers and amazing photo works. I also see this as an opportunity to promote 360 photography to the public, showcasing another use of the technology. Below is the original VR viewable version of the scene:

The exhibit takes place at the Pennsylvania Center for Photography in my town of Doylestown, PA. They will also present everyone in an online gallery. Visit them at http://www.pacenterforphotography.org/
And if you’re curious, here are all four of what I submitted:
 

Virtual Touring

I recently started experimenting with some new tools of Veer. My subject was an old abandoned historic stone house in my town of Doylestown, PA. I used a Ricoh THETA S camera on a 12′ pole to poke it inside the barred window openings to get a rare look inside. I created the tour with Veer’s new “VR Experience” tools that allow me to have clickable hot spots, graphics, etc. to guide viewers around the house. I think it works very well, and will be very useful for things like museum tours and real estate showcases. Looking forward to doing more with it.

Oh, and don’t forget to follow my Veer Channel!

Latest 360 video

My latest 360 video, experimenting with a public sing-a-long event at what was the home of the great lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II in my town of Doylestown, PA.  Recorded with my new 6 camera GoPro Hero5 Session rig in a 3D Printed cage. Stitched with Autopano Video, and edited with Final Cut Pro X.  It was an important talk to capture, with messages of peace from the son of Mahatma Gandhi, Arun.

Ready to provide 360 Production Services!

Just completed the final testing of my much improved 360 camera system, and with great success! This new setup allows me to capture 8k video in full 360 degrees. The 8k resolution allows for very high quality video through VR headsets, Google Cardboard, etc.

The housing was built using a 3D printer.

Above and below is the new system in action to record the video featured here. For technical specs, it is 6 GoPro Hero5 Sessions in a custom 3D Printed housing. Each camera records 2.7k video, which are post-stitched to make a single 8k equirectangular video of the entire 360 degree scene. This video can then be edited to add transitions, titles, and even patch the nadir (remove the camera tripod mount). The resulting output can be up to 4k to post on services like Vimeo & YouTube.

Camera rig mounted on a standard light stand.

Because of the original 8k quality, these 4k converted videos present excellent quality in VR headsets like Google cardboard via a mobile phone. Starting with high resolution is the key to sharp, crisp 360 video, which I am now capable of providing to clients.  Video below, which is a calming look at a unique historic property located in Doylestown, PA.

To contact me about services in the Philadelphia region: http://tebweb.com/360/?page_id=152

 

 

 

The day has arrived!

Very excited today, as my self-imposed “launch date” has arrived! The official launch of my efforts to build a better mousetrap–in this case a production lighting instrument. Two years of development, applying for a patent, 3D printing prototypes. Making mistakes, do-overs, learning new skills……and I’m ready!

Introducing the “CL360,” a specialized lighting instrument for the emerging markets of 360 degree video, photography and VR/AR production. What has been absent in this new world of 360 content is an easy and efficient way to light the entire scene. Lighting either has to be hidden in plain sight, just expected that it will be seen, or simply not dealt with, using only ambient lighting. My creation solves this problem by providing an even light source that illuminates the full view of the 360 camera, while being “invisible” to it. Accomplished by a now Patent Pending design. The design allows for quick setup suitable for many applications such as video conferencing, interviews, documentaries, real estate, etc.

I plan on using this blog space to discuss specific examples and applications for the product. In the meantime, please visit the landing page at http://cameralight360.com which also features a demonstration video.

Also, if you happen to be attending NAB next month, I will be there with the prototypes! I will be arranging one-on-one demonstrations with meeting space at The Embassy Suites-Convention Center April 10 & 11. Details on the website.  Looking forward to posting more about this device, and how it can contribute to this new world of producing 360 content!

The official product handout.

Main photo: the CL360 Video light in use to record a Bluegrass band. Thanks to The Doylestown Jam, of Bucks County, PA.

Photo credit: Jason Wood/Immersion Photography.

Bucks County, PA “Bucks Fever FilmFest VR Workshop”

I was honored to be asked to be part of a panel discussion on emerging 360/VR technology, and how to use it to tell a story. Many smart people working in different aspects of VR/360. Had a fun time talking about my product development, and learned a lot from others embracing this technology in its pioneering stages.

And a video of most of the presentation, recorded in 360 (of course!).

 

360 Time Lapse!

Now that I’m getting used to the dual Kodak rig, time to get to some experimenting. A beautiful clear Labor Day morning in my little town. Decided to try for a time lapse of the sun rise.

Kodak SP360 4K dual cameras for full 360 captures.

As I found out, the dual controller wrist remote only works with the cameras in either Photo only, or Video only. No other modes can be dual triggered with the wrist remote. A bit disappointing, but it is what it is. So I set up both cameras to same mode (2880 1:1, Time Lapse 30sec). Then, just press both records together! Any frame slippage could be corrected in the PixPro Stitch Software later. Both cameras ran about 90 minutes with full batteries, enough to get the following video. I was very happy with the results, and hope to do this again here when the leaves start turning–but capture the entire day. Working on an extended battery set up for this to happen.

The finished product. Don’t blink! 

Much progress made, much more to be done!

The main idea behind this page is to eventually support a product I am developing for a part of 360 Video/Photo Production being currently ignored – lighting. I have developed a process, currently in the patent stage to make this part of 360 content production easier. Design is done, patent underway, and product branding and presentation next. More to report as things evolve!