Friday, July 28, 2017

Fireworks in 360 Degree Video

I bought myself a 360 degree camera to experiment with VR and other immersive types of film making. The camera I bought was the Kodak PixPro SP360 4K. I got the Dual Pro Pack so I could cover 360 degrees around and 180 degrees top to bottom, giving me a full sphere of coverage. I did a couple of tests walking around a park but didn't post those.

So for this I filmed most of setting off some fireworks with my girlfriend and son at my boss's house (she lives in Bothell, WA where it is somewhat legal to shoot fireworks) and then edited it down to eight and a half minutes.

Of course with 360 footage you can't just throw it into Premiere and get what you want. No the camera records this round / square video that looks pretty distorted. You then use some "stitching" program to join the two videos (one for each side) and when that saves it is in a rectangular 360 view called equirectangular. The footage has to be in this format with some VR tags or Premiere (and presumably other video editing software) won't recognize it.

So my first problem was that I couldn't get the remote to hook up with the cameras. If this had worked then I would be able to start and stop both cameras at the same time. I need to get this figured out but haven't had the time. So I just hit the start and stop button as close as I could at the same time. Luckily the stitching program has a sync feature that uses the sound wave forms to align the two videos before joining them together.

The next problem I had was with the stitching program. If you film for too long then you get multiple files: each about four gigabytes. There is a feature to join the files before stitching them but with the Mac versions of the programs this joining feature refused to work. Stitching had previously worked with the smaller test footage so I knew that wasn't the problem. Fortunately I had a PC that I could load the software on. This version had joining down pretty well as well as stitching. When I have time I should bring this up to the developers so they can fix it (or send me the patch if they already have).

So now I have joined and stitched equirectangular footage to import into Premiere Pro CC 2017 and get down to editing. I'm listing the exact version of Premiere I'm using because I just don't know if any previous version has the VR extensions that make this possible.

One of the interesting things about the equirectangular format is that it pics one of the cameras and designates that as front and centers that in the middle of the screen. I'm pretty sure when I was stitching the footage I selected camera one and camera two. My hypothesis is that camera one is the default "front view" when the stitching and squashing and slicing and dicing takes place.

The problem with my footage is that I invariably chose the footage with the most fireworks as camera two. This had two effects. The first is that the viewer has to turn around to see most of the action. The second is that whenever I made a cut, if the other video was turned around then the viewer would have to keep turning to view the "center" of the action.

Using multiple layers of the video and sliding them around I can control exactly where the "front-center" of the view is. But this is kind of a pain so think about where you want people viewing and which camera will be the best oriented to give you  the "front-center" that works best for the shot.

When I shot this I tried to get as close as possible to the fireworks so you could feel immersed in the action and have to look around and up to see it all.

This is designed mainly for newer phones that have little gyroscopes in them. With one of these you can just hold the phone out in front of you and move around to see the other sides of the sphere. It works best with a holder like "Google Cardboard" or something like that.

So here it is: 360 Fireworks 2017


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