360 VideoSphere Camera attached to the Tiller of the Enterprize, Melbourne Regatta Day 2016

Staff Blog: Mucking about with 360 VideoSphere VR Part 3

Interested in 360 VideoSphere (360 Virtual Reality)? This series shares what I learnt producing a short film aboard an old Sailing Ship for the Melbourne Fringe Festival[1].

In the last update, my team of volunteers were looking forward to shooting our first 360 VR short film. Then we hit a hurdle. Our cinematographer was unable to do any test shots or editing, due to incompatibility with his computer and the festival’s practice camera.

AWFUL AUDIO, OR AUDACIOUS?

The hurdle was followed by a face-first tumble into the mud when our sound engineer had an overseas job at the same time as the shoot. We could not reschedule; Melbourne Regatta Day aligned with our shooting window, and was too good to miss.

Plan B. We contacted other specialists, and they were keen to try 360 VideoSphere production, but there was not enough time to line up people and equipment. So we fell back to Plan C; use the Samsung Gear 360 camera’s inbuilt microphone. This would not be great if you’re recording a concert, or producing a narrative that requires directional sound to direct audience attention. Still, for our purposes we were pretty pleased with the quality.

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NEW TECHNOLOGY? IF WISDOM FAILS TRY TENACITY

Conventional wisdom with emerging technology is test it early and iron out the inevitable problems. It’s wisdom for a reason.

Unfortunately, the festival’s production units were unavailable in advance. So, we could give up, or improvise and manage the risk. We decided to go for it, and as expected, encountered problems right away.

It is not possible to get behind a 360 camera and look through a viewfinder, but with the Samsung Gear you can use your phone as a remote viewer. A nifty feature, unless as in this case, Samsung block access to the app because you’re in a country where the Camera has yet to be officially released. The festival hadn’t identified this issue because like us, this was their inaugural spin on the 360 dancefloor.

Short of trying solutions like IP masking to make it look like we were in South Korea (where the camera was bought) we would have to shoot blind – so that’s what we did. For example, we climbed the mast and out onto a yardarm to attach the camera. Then, we recovered it after 10 minutes to physically connect it to my laptop and review the footage.

Sometimes even workarounds need a workaround. The case around the camera’s USB port was too small for our cable, and modifying the borrowed camera was out of the question. Our resident inventor, Andrew, borrowed the skipper’s knife and whittled away his own USB cable’s superfluous housing. I admit, I was sceptical but it fit neatly into the Camera’s port.

IN THE NEXT UPDATE

So after a long day shooting we had plenty of good footage.

However, 360 VideoSphere (360 VR) film is captured on multiple cameras. So, this composite footage must be “stitched” together before it can be edited. The results create some unique trials in the editing suit!

USEFUL LINKS

 

For an immersive experience and ease of use try using a Google Cardboard headset and selecting this icon in YouTube: google_cardboard_logo

 

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Intern Blog: How Augmented Reality can bring Hogwarts to Life

Written by: Navya

The cold yet damp air wrapped around him like a heavy coat of chain mail as he transcended down the ageing hallways. The paintings, lining the walls, alive, uttering unintelligible words. Yet amongst the sea of voices, two words became prominent, echoing throughout the empty castle: “Harry…Harry Potter”. The stone-cold walls – unscathed by the warmth radiating from the flaming torches, created an illusion of twilight despite the heat and brilliance of the Summer time.

Eagerly waiting on your 11th birthday for Hagrid to arrive with your Hogwarts acceptance letter was, I dare say, every child’s dream. At least it was mine for sure. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – from the talking paintings to the Transfiguration classes, life was full of promise. This is an ideal that never failed to amaze us Potterheads. Yet, as we grew older, we accepted the fact that it was impossible.

Hogwarts was merely a phantom of our imaginations that we were forced to leave behind. However now, through the use of Augmented Reality (AR), the magic we believed was lost can be retrieved – and it’s much easier than you think.

How can augmented reality be used in modern schooling?

From multi-touch to gaming technologies which are utilised in modern schooling, we are, undoubtedly harnessing the ‘Classroom of the Future’ for generations to come. An aspect which is vital in social and intellectual ferment within a school environment is the interaction and collaboration between peers and educators alike. Ultimately, collaborative AR allows for teamwork when comprehending the superimposed virtual data. This helps to promote a greater transfer of knowledge amongst students of all ages. For instance, undertaking difficult procedures or to tackle any problems is addressed through AR demonstrations in lecture or seminar halls. Alternatively,  classrooms can establish an effective means of passing of knowledge amongst people.

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Amazing, right?

Better yet, it caters to specific learning types of students. Students can physically see or hear the digital material, formulating a better understanding of the data. Moreover, it affords students the opportunity to instinctively manipulate and alter the ‘virtual information’. This ensures a stronger understanding of their subject content (as augmented technology can be repeated).

The very basis of AR is to integrate the concepts of a physical environment (such as a classroom) with various virtual setups to establish tangible interfaces. A medium to transfer information to students in an interactive manner. Talking paintings no longer seem like a distant cry, do they?


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Okay, okay – so this may not be Hogwarts as we exactly remember it. However we must consider the limitless possibilities AR developed by Appearition has to offer. The world is forever changing, and it is time we stop falling behind the times. Hey, you never know – you just might find a little bit of magic along the way.

 

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A Culture of Trust Series: Japan

A few weeks ago, we were offered a spot in the Victorian Government’s 2016 Technology Trade Mission to Japan. For us, this presented an opportunity to make the most of a guided tour of a market that we have long admired. We have also always aspired to engage with this culture of trust.

To my luck, our diverse team holds a wealth of experience from past expeditions into the land of the rising sun. Having aggregated as much water-cooler knowledge as I could possibly manage – I embarked on my first visit to Tokyo. 

Lesson #1 – Trust and collaboration

The Japanese are inherently collaborative and trust-worthy – the locals are friendly and will offer whatever assistance they can. My first exposure to this was during an attempt to navigate the myriad of tunneled trains that make up the Tokyo underground. Multiple kind faces offered this confused tourist assistance in this endeavor – despite the lack of any linguistic alignment. I don’t speak Japanese, and a couple of my new friends didn’t speak English. But the encouragement of smiles coupled with the support of Google Maps multilingual support – made the local commute a cinch.

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This courtesy extends to professional life as well. The Japanese are approachable and happy to give time to visitors, sharing insights and discussing ideas. This was further evident from the number of meetings that were arranged as the Victorian Government did an exceptional job of arranging visits with a diverse slice of the local economy – ranging from potential partners to active prospects.

It’s no secret that the Japanese market is massive – with a population of 125 million – compared to Australia. However, the average consumer spend is up to 9 times more than the parallel statistic in China. This propels the economy to be at par with their closest neighbors to the west.

Lesson #2 – Little steps toward a larger goal

Kaizen – or a beautiful mindset balanced in patience and consistency towards continual improvement – is a practice evident in everything done in Japan. From the staff in hospitality, to the largest of corporations and in day-to-day life as well. It is an approach engrained in the local mindset – and is a key adjustment for any inbound business.

However, the approachability and open discussion of ideas – very often assumed otherwise – is no indication of a client win. Relationships must be built over time, respect must be earned and when trust is established, negotiations can begin.

The visit coincided with the NEC iExpo 2016, an annual event where regional team leaders and clients of the Japanese technology are invited to explore and experience the latest in their research. The expo was not open to the public – and we were thankful for the invite. It would undermine the experience to summarize it in a blog post. However, the overarching message that hit me was NEC’s impressive pursuit of social value creation and the use of technology towards this goal.

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Lesson #3 – Pursue social value creation

The cornerstone of NEC’s business is “Orchestrating a brighter world”. This indicates that even large organizations can consciously “strive to orchestrate projects with people around the world to “co-create” a society that is filled with hope and offers a brighter future for everyone.” NEC invests heavily in research and solutions for smart cities, artificial intelligence, etc, are well above par. With integrated end-to-end solutions, NEC offers a clear, holistic view on how digital transformation can support the population growth.

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In the realm of digital transformation, there is much to be learnt from Japanese business culture. The steady approach to understanding every facet of an organizations operations is critical. This allows more analysis on how technology such as Augmented Reality can serve as a medium to add value to a client. Similarly, change management forms a critical part of any transformation, as careful planning and contingency plans are unavoidably critical.

These three lessons are merely the tip of the iceberg from this visit, but are by far the most prudent. At Appearition we make it a point to share what we learn about business culture and values internally. We apply similar practices towards building a stronger value offering for our clients.

To outsiders, we may be just another statistic in the wave of technology start-ups. However, our philosophy is simple and we will not waver from it – respect stakeholders of your ecosystem and create real value for them – and success will come.

Thank you for taking the time to read today, and we look forward to sharing more in the near future.

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Staff Blog: Mucking about with 360 VideoSphere VR Part 2

All Goes Well, Until It Doesn’t

Interested in 360 VR (VideoSphere)? This series shares what I learnt producing one aboard an old Sailing Ship for the Melbourne Fringe Festival[1].

I was lucky enough to come across the opportunity at a VR (Virtual Reality) meetup to produce a VideoSphere short film, with the camera and expert guidance supplied[2]. I have produced traditional video, and was already intrigued after seeing two staff from ABC TV talk about their experience at an earlier Mixed Reality meetup[3].

When Amy Nelson and Astrid Scott explained how they produced the ABC’s first 360 production, I was struck by how accessible they made it[4]. They faced the challenge of placing their camera on a pole over an angry bull in the middle of a rodeo in outback Queensland. For other shots they had the camera operator hiding behind a barrel. Not because of the bull, but because hiding the crew behind the camera is not an option, when there is no “behind” the camera.

They were candid about accepting mistakes. They knew that many of the rules learned over the last century do not apply to this medium so new practices must be developed through experimentation.

So given this chance, my first thought was ‘brilliant!’ which is my reaction to anything related to Virtual and Augmented Reality. But I had no team, no 360 experience, and no time. So, it had everything going for it but common sense.

1830’s Cultural Heritage Meets 360 Video

The festival required a proposal. Cultural Heritage (i.e. history) kinda rocks and everybody loves old fashioned sailing ships, whatever their opinion of Johnny Depp’s (over)acting in Pirates of the Caribbean. However, not everybody can spend time aboard one, let alone to climb out onto a yard-arm high above the deck. I have been a volunteer aboard the Enterprize, an educational tourism ship, for the last few years, and this was a way to share the experience.

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The first step was to create a storyboard (a sequence of shots, like panels in a comic book) and get the festival and the ship’s management on board.

The next step was to put together a team. For the cinematography I called on Andrew Gotts, an old friend who has worked in video production. He enjoys experimental technology, and has a good head for heights. He suggested an editor, Nadia Nusatea, so that made three. We still required an audio specialist so I approached Darius Kedros who runs a VR Audio special interest group[5].

There were a few short weeks to learn the technology, shoot and edit. But we now had a plan, a team, and something to film.

Cameras and Audio Equal Trouble and Strife

Then, bad news. The practice camera provided was incompatible with Andrew’s hardware, and we could not borrow the production camera until less than a day before the shoot. Our choices were to quit, or go in blind.

Worse news. Darius would be overseas for an extended period. Understandably he did not want to risk his very expensive audio capture equipment with somebody else; particularly when it would be suspended over salt water.

Next week

In next week’s edition: All At Sea But Problem Solving: We improvise to solve our production problems and capture our footage, but even editing 360 creates its own obstacles

Useful Links

Many of these are Melbourne (Australia) based, but you can find similar resources wherever you are.

  1. Part 1 of this Series: http://appearition.com/mucking-about-with-360-videosphere-vr/ 
  2. Nathan Beattie’s VR Developers’ Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-VR/
  3. Leah Bunny and Emily Harridge’s Real World VR Meetuphttps://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-VR-Virtual-Reality-Meetup/
  4. ABC TV’s first 360 VideoSphere production: http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-03/vr:-the-life-of-a-bronc-rider/6966832
  5. Darius Kedros and Sally Kellaway’s VR Audio Group: http://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-AR-VR-Audio-Meetup/

 

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