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Filming in every direction at once

This blog was posted by Matt Jolly on September 11, 2015 as part of the CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy. You can find out more about the project here.

Capturing a video that points every direction at once – forwards, backwards, left, right, up AND down – has been fascinating. Although it seemed easy to make a video that is just one shot with no editing, in reality it’s been a time-consuming process.

I’m very grateful to three companies for their help in this project. The first is Bruizer, who lent me their 360 camera rig. It’s made of 7 GoPros in a frame to capture video in every direction. Here it is, on Aldeburgh Beach.

bandstand

The GoPro camera prides itself on being a handy little automatic box to capture whatever you put in front of it, so the first step of making 7 videos all exposed at the same level was to go into the menu and turn off all the automatic functions. And then do it again, and again, until all 7 cameras had matching settings. As the cameras are so small, they also have tiny batteries, which mean you’re lucky if they last a full hour. So plugging in 7 charging cables at every available opportunity became a necessity.

The second company I’d like to thank is the BBC Symphony Orchestra, who let me film their performance at the Aldeburgh Festival. I suspect some orchestras might balk at the prospect of no editing allowed, but as their performances are almost all broadcast on Radio 3 live, they didn’t mind at all. Here they are in rehearsal with Martyn Brabbins, working on Britten’s Sea Interludes with video projections by Tal Rosner. You can just about see the 360 rig high above above Martyn’s head.

orchestra shot

We had planned to film the Sea Interludes in concert, but the lighting had to be so low for the video projections that it left most of the room in complete darkness – a bad idea for a video where you can look in every direction! So instead we filmed another briny work from the same concert, The Sea by Frank Bridge.

Once it was filmed, the next task is to get the footage from the cameras. This has to be done in order so as not to confuse the software. And, with 7 cameras filming greater-than-HD-resolution footage for 40 minutes, the files are huge. The 360 folder on my computer, with the concert and a few other clips in, currently stands at 295.7GB. Here’s 7 cards waiting to be copied.

memory cards

The repetitiveness of doing every task 7 times was starting to get to me by now – can you tell? But there was more to come…

Stitching these 7 files together into one all-encompassing video is quite tough for a computer to do. The Mac Pro I was using at work was struggling, with 12 minutes of rendering time for every one minute of video, even before any colour correction:

Here I am grateful for the third person, Rich at Hammerhead VR, who gave me some tips on processing the footage. It all seemed to be working though, and some of the musicians that pop in seemed to enjoy the footage too:

Finally, after a lot of tweaks, we have it up and running – our very own Concert in a Phonebox at Aldeburgh Music, where you can walk in and watch the BBC Symphony Orchestra, hovering above Martyn Brabbins’ head, whenever you want. These are the first happy virtual concertgoers:

postbox

And you can take a look at the video using Youtube’s 360 video viewer here – just click play and use the arrow keys to look around (needs Google Chrome, I think). Even better is if you look at the video using the Youtube app on a smart phone – you can move the phone and look around the concert hall from there.

Next step is to do my experiment on the unsuspecting people attending the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival. Stay tuned to find out what happens.

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