The Theta+ Video app is available

Yesterday the Theta+ Video app came out for Android. The Theta+ video app allows you to trim video clips and then share them to social networks. This means that you no longer need to wait until you get home to prepare content for sharing. You can do it while you sit and have a post activity hot chocolate or other drink.

Video options
Video options

When you select the raw video it is converted to be a spherical video. When that process completes you can choose between creating a 360 degree video or a cropped one. A cropped one is a tinyworld video.

Filters, Trim and music
Filters, Trim and music

The next menu gives you three choices, filters, trim or background music. I never bother with filters and the trim option is fiddly on the Sony Xperia Z5 compact with a 13 minute video. With a shorter video I would have found this process easier. Saving is not intuitive. First you trim the video and then you go back and save the changes. While saving you need to keep the app open.

The sharing options are to Facebook, youtube and other social networks. This varies according to which apps you have on your phone. I like that the two first options are facebook and youtube as these are the networks that I usually share to. When I tried to upload to youtube it failed twice. When I attempted to upload to Facebook it was stuck at 99 percent twice.

This is a great app to trim videos before sharing and add some music when required. What I would like to see in future versions is the ability to compile a number of 360 videos together to create edited sequences. They need to improve uploading so that it works better. At the moment of posting all attempts to share videos failed.

Playing Ingress and Pokemon Go in parallel

People are playing Ingress and Pokemon Go in Parallel. Both games use the same geo-located points and walk the same routes. They have the same places to farm and combat. I started playing Ingress again, but only a few minutes here and there. As I play I see new faces and new people at Ingress portals. They are no longer my age or older. They are much younger, in their teens.

Yesterday as the neighbours were having a party I decided to take advantage of the excuse to go out and play Ingress. I went to the four or five portals in my village. At the village church I saw a youth drive up to it on a scooter, farm via the Pokemon Go layer and then leave. Nothing changed on the Ingress layer. No damaged resonators, no upgrades.

I like that people can play two entirely different games at the same location. I see this as the future of geo-located games. I see this as the next wave. The physical world provides the location and then the layer (or game) provides the user interface, the virtual world we interact with. With imagination more and more layers can be added. This will provide people with choice.

The next step is smartwatches and augmented reality goggles. Those who have played Ingress intensively know where all the portals are so they can put their phone away when walking from point to point. The same is probably true of Pokemon Go players. One person wrote that he uses his smartwatch to farm when walking around. Imagine if Google Glass had come out now. If it had come out now, with the Pokemon Go craze people would buy them.

At the moment to play pokemon Go and Ingress you walk in a position, that given time, will turn us in to hunchbacks. Rather than being from manual work in a field or a coal mine it will be from walking staring at a phone. I write this with a certain sense of humour. The market for Augmented reality goggles is ripe. Device manufacturers should grab this opportunity while it lasts.

Watching clouds form as a 360 timelapse

Time-lapse videos are fun because we can see something happen faster or slower than real time. By watching this content we gain a better understanding of the world and how it works. For years I have been filming time-lapses and the results can be fun. In some cases we record time-lapses with video cameras and at other times we set an interval timer to take pictures every so many seconds. In this post you will be watching clouds form as a 360 timelapse.

I have chosen to share both the flat image and the spherical image. The reason for sharing both versions is to give you an overview of how objects move in both.

Spherical Version

With this version look to your right and you will be able to watch the clouds move through space. As they move you will see them grow thicker and then cover the sun. At this point everything gets darker. If you watch this video a few times you can watch the landscape change.

The next step would be to get a 360 camera somewhere high during a total eclipse of the sun by the moon. During such events you will see a grey mask cross over the landscape, you will see birds fly away and then everything will be dark. You can then turn around and watch totality, the corona and then the reverse process. The time is right for eclipse chasers to be at the right place to capture such an event as a 360 video.

Flat Version

With the flat version you can imagine where you would aim a standard camera. Would you try to get the clouds that are forming over the mast or would you prefer to look out towards La Dôle and watch as the large clouds form and float to block off the sun? In this image you can see from Villeneuve and Lausanne to Geneva and the Salève.

Having such a wide angle of view allows you to see everything that is going on in front of and behind the camera. The timelapse is a sequence of pictures rather than video so in future I hope to export the video in a higher resolution.

Cosmic Trip – Physical Video gaming – Throw it like a frisbee

Physical Video Gaming

Physical video gaming is coming of age thanks to the HTC Vive and related Games. Cosmic Trip is one of these games. You can use both controllers to prepare machines that will prepare robots for mining and defence. These two sets of robots are autonomous. The more resources you mine and the more robots you have. These robots are attacked on a regular basis so defence is important. The laser robots provide some assistance. You can attack the enemy bots by throwing disks at them as if you were throwing frisbees. Most people should find this instinctive.

In the last 17 hours more than half a million people watched the video on how to play this game. The game is still in development and building up hype for when it is released properly. The creator of the video above now has eleven million subscribers on youtube. When he produces a video eleven million people are notified that there is a new video to watch.

Half a million views in 17hrs
Half a million views in 17hrs

Out of those 11 million subscribers on youtube only 1.6 million follow on twitter and a quarter of a million on Facebook. Within the next year or two I would like to see social networks such as Youtube and others expand and become niche communities where people can find content of interest without using Facebook or Twitter. I found Jack Septiceye content when I was searching for VR demos. I use youtube rather than Twitter and Facebook because I don’t want content creators and sharers to tell me how to feel or why the content is of value. I want to make that decision for myself. Youtube and social networks that allow us to browse and discover content based on niche interests are going to become increasingly important.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 08.58.19

A small Twitter audience
A small twitter audience

The creators of the game have just two thousand eight hundred followers on Twitter and approaching one thousand on Facebook. When youtube personalities make videos about products they provide companies with a lot of extra visibility. You reach game players, people who want to see what new technology such as the HTC Vive can do and people who like to watch gameplay videos without necessarily being game players themselves.

Niche Audiences

Twitter and Facebook have focused on broadcasting rather than niche audiences. As a result of this strategy they have lost their stickiness. This leads to people spending less and less time on their social networks. This opens up opportunities for Youtube and other content aggregation sites. The more content you watch on Youtube the more recommendations you will get based on your taste. This cuts out the middle man, in this case Facebook and Twitter. We reduce the signal to noise ratio. We increase the user’s Return on Investment.

360 timelpase videos

360 timelapse videos provide us with interesting new opportunities. Imagine for example placing the camera out to see near Weymouth beach and watching as the tide comes towards the camera and then beyond it towards the city. Imagine watching as the sun rises on one side of the Leukerbad Valley and sets on the other. Imagine that BBC Natural history unit sequence of sand dunes moving across the landscape one day at a time for a year.

Timelapse with the Ricoh Theta S

Two days ago I was tempted to try a timelapse video with the Ricoh Theta S. My plan had been to take the camera up to La Barillette and film a timelapse. From this point of view you can see the whole of the Lac Léman. You can see from Geneva to Villeneuve on a good day. With a weather system like we have at the moment you can watch clouds form and dissipate. You can also see the shadows left by those clouds and more. With a standard timelapse camera you would see just a small part of the scene. With a 360 timelapse you could look out towards the Alps or around at the cars and hikers. You could look up at the mast and more.

I say that you could do this because there are high winds up there and you need a heavy tripod to keep the camera from falling and breaking one of the lenses. You also need to find something to do while the camera is working.

Yesterday morning was clement, we had clouds and blue sky so I was able to try a timelapse. I set the camera to take an image every ten seconds for an unlimited amount of time. The settings on this camera give you great flexibility with timing. You can go from every eight seconds to setting a much longer amount of time.
timelapse(2)You can set the interval to take pictures from every 8 seconds to every 60 minutes and 59 seconds.

You can either preview the image as a spherical image or as an equirectalinear image. Once you are happy with the settings you can start capturing. In yesterday’s test I was able to get more than 600 images on a single battery charge when the camera was set to take a picture every ten seconds.

The obvious limiting factor with this camera for timelapses is battery life. As soon as the camera is plugged in to a power source it turns off and starts to charge. As a result charging and taking pictures at the same time is not possible. There is also the minor issue of having the USB charge port right next to the tripod screw. You would need to modify a plate to charge the camera at the same time. The camera lasted for about 100 minutes before the battery died.

Post production

With the Ricoh Theta S and final Cut Pro X post production is efficient. You are dealing with images with a resolution of 5,376 x 2,688 pixels. That qualifies as UHD. You can import the image sequences from your timelpases straight from FCP X cutting out the need for other apps. Once the images are imported your your event you can open a new project at full resolution. I added the UHD image sequence to the timeline, created a compound clip and then used the speed tool to adjust the duration.

I still need to do some research about how to export the edit at full resolution. As I was given an error message I decided to export the video as 1920×960. This worked flawlessly. I used the Spatial Media Metadata Injector to add the necessary image meta data and then uploaded the injected video to youtube.

I look forward to finding ideas and projects that will take advantage of what 360 timelapse videos have to offer. I feel that it provides us with an opportunity to better understand how time and light evolve in a spherical environment.

Rain and the Gear 360

Rain and the Gear 360 are well suited to the weather we are currently subjected to in Switzerland. For the past month and a half we have had rain almost every single day. As a result of this it has limited the number of opportunities to go out and get 360 footage.

360 camera rigs are not designed for rain. Most 360 rigs involve at least six non weatherproof cameras and rigs that are designed for dry rather than wet conditions. To go out in this rain would drown the equipment. With additional funds you could film in these conditions with weatherproof gear but the cost increases. Add to this that camera systems like the Ricoh Theta S prefer clear skies and nice weather for taking video and you see that it is not really worth the effort.

By the end of September the Samsung Gear 360 should provide us with a simple to carry, weatherproof 360 camera which could be fun to take canyoning (if they make a specialist housing) or hiking for doing other sports activities where weather proofing is a useful feature. The trend to make devices at least splash proof is good.

Another nice feature of this camera is the ability to use 200 gigabyte SDHC cards. with these cards you can record for hours. When the card is full or when you’re changing location you can change cards in seconds and continue working on a project. With the Ricoh Theta S you can record for 45 minutes before you need to transfer the footage, clear the memory and start recording again.

With 200 gigabytes of storage one concept that I would love to test is 360° time lapse videos. You could fix the camera to your bike, to a canoe or to some other object and set it to take a picture at regular intervals. So far I have not seen a mention of an interval recording mode but with 200 gigabytes you can record for hours without worrying about storage. You could change the speed in post production.

This camera records in UHD rather than HD quality. Video recording is at a resolution of 3840×1920. 360 videos taken with this camera should be more pleasant to view as a result.

The 360° video eco-system is still in it’s infancy and most 360 video solutions require people to use a number of cameras. Both Samsung and Ricoh provide all in one solutions along with software to stitch the images ready for post production. They are helping to democratise the medium both by making production cheaper but also by enabling people to produce content. This increase in content will encourage more people to get VR goggles which in turn will justify increasing the budget of 360 video production budgets. It will go from being a niche product to being mainstream.

The World from a baby’s perspective

How would you feel if you had access to video footage taken with a 360° camera of the world from a baby’s perspective? This is a question I find interesting to answer. I decided to try this experiment a few days ago. The limitation of most cameras is that they only show what is within the field of view. They only show what the photographer or camera operator felt was worth capturing.

With a 360° camera placed at the child’s eye level you can see everything from their perspective. You can see the entire room and you can look up to see the grown ups or down to see the hands and other objects on the ground. You can also see the underside of chairs and tables. With VR goggles you would see the world from that perspective.

Imagine a birthday or Christmas party from this perspective. You would see the opening of presents, the reaction of the infant but also of the grown ups, of the brothers and sisters and maybe pets if there are any around.

I think that this way of documenting the world would be most interesting for the child when she becomes a teenager or grown up. Imagine the pleasure that could be had by seeing how everyone looked at this time. Conventional cameras are always missing at least one person. With 360 cameras everyone would be in the image. The camera operator becomes part of the scene.

One advantage of 360° videos is that they cover what is taking place in front and behind the camera so people may behave more naturally than if a standard video or photo camera was pointing at them. I love being behind video cameras rather than in front. With 360 cameras I am forced to be in frame. I believe that people will behave in a more natural manner than if they were filmed by a conventional camera.

We see how people enjoy letters and paintings, photographs and conventional videos. Imagine how much enjoyment people would get from taking a step back in time. Imagine looking at the furniture, the gadgets, the architecture from a decade or two ago.

Understanding Virtual Reality games via Youtube

Virtual Reality is still an abstract concept for people requiring either a Samsung mobile phone and their VR headset, a mobile phone and a VR headset from a third party provider or dedicated hardware like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Unless you’re in a big city testing this technology is impractical.

Vlogging is an effective way to understand the potential of Virtual Reality experiences such as those provided by the HTC Vive. I mention the HTC Vive system because it is one of the first to provide gamers with a fully immersive experience. You move around in space physically and pick up objects thanks to the controllers.

In contrast to written articles you see how people react and enjoy new technology in real time. You don’t rely on someone’s writing skills. It gives you a direct and honest appreciation of the experience that you will personally experience if you play the game with that setup.

Demonstrations such as this one are fun because they show you how immersive the game is and how physically demanding VR gaming can be. When my generation were gaming we had to sit at a console or computer and use a keyboard and mouse or a controller. We could sit for hours not moving much. With VR systems gaming is no longer an inactive activity. From now on you need space in a room to move around in, you need hand controllers and you need to stand, sit, crouch and more. Gaming is now a physical activity.

We are still in the infancy of VR gaming and technology will improve. We will get gloves, surfaces for walking and more. VR experiences will be progressively more immersive and so people’s occasionally negative perception of gaming and gamers may change. I look forward to VR gloves that allow us to see our fingers move and wrap around objects.


Experimenting with Spherical photographs

I was in Spain with the Ricoh Theta S last week so I took the opportunity to experiment with the Ricoh Theta S in a number of locations. What I like about such a device is that it takes a click to get pictures. I experimented with a manfrotto monopod and a smaller monopod. The Manfrotto base was clearly visible in shots so the immersive experience is degraded. With the smaller monopod the base is the same width as that of the camera. This means that at least the support was hidden.

runners in Denia, Spain – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

The first image was taken at Denia port, showing two runners running along the port wall/promenade. You can look around and see that the sea was flat, that the car park is relatively full and buildings behind the scene. It provides you with context.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

The second image is taken with the monopod fully extended so that it is among the branches of the trees. You can see a light house ahead and you can look at the tree at the same time.

theta archaeology. 🙂 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

It would be interesting to experiment with archeology and 360 pictures and video. Instead of placing the camera to one side and having the camera operator choose what you see the action could take place around the camera and the viewer, sitting in a swivel chair could turn and look at where the most interesting thing is happening next. You can zoom in and out within reason, to see details or to see a wider picture.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

At the Denia Marina part of a bar is floating on the water. it has a sphere of sun shades around with speakers and lights. You can sit in comfortable seats and look up. A conventional image would show the dome from outside but with a spherical camera you can capture the feeling of being in the centre of the structure.

my camera and I, between shots. 🙂 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

This image was taken in Basel during a recent trip. This location is ideal for 360/spherical images because each wall is covered with paintings, the clock is decorated and more. As it surrounds you the subject lends itself well to 360° photography.

a rock outcrop – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

For the last image I went to sea level and photographed the view from a headland and beaches on either side. One of those beaches has bars and a number of people whereas the other beach is nice and quiet. It is nice to look at these images and get a feel for the place.

The challenge in taking these photos is how to get the camera in to an interesting place and hide yourself or the support for the camera. I usually knelt down and tried to stay directly below the camera. The other option is to find a system to stand the camera at the right height but make the monopod invisible. With multi-camera setups parallax makes hiding tripods and other objects easier. The next step is to find a base that makes hiding the stand simple.

Vlogging on a Via Ferrata with the Theta S

Vlogging on a Via Ferrata with the Theta S by Ricoh is not only feasible but interesting. Earlier today I went to the Via Ferrata du Fort L’écluse in the French Region of Ain. This Via Ferrata goes long the nice rock face next to the climb. The purpose of this video is to bring you with me so that you can experience the sounds of Via Ferrata without the climbing experience or a head for heights.

The Theta S by Ricoh is a 360° camera with two lenses. One lens is looking at the person taking video and the other lens looks at what the holder of the camera sees. When the two signals are combined you can export the video as a 360 video to be shared.

The device has a mini HDMI out, a USB port, enough memory for 45 minutes of video at 1920X1080 with a 30FPS shooting range. It is currently one of the more affordable and intuitive devices to use. You can keep it with you at all times and getting material ready for editing takes seconds. The beauty of such a simple and light solution is that it allows for a very quick turnaround time.

You can review the footage instantly
Reviewing footage is simple and intuitive

I was hanging off a cliff when I was taking my videos today but if you’re a normal person you will probably be sitting in a café or some stairs to review the footage. When device wifi is activated and when you download the app you can use your phone as a remote to take videos or pictures and even to watch back the video you have taken in 360° vision. If you’re not happy with the shot then you can repeat it until you are happy. This system is a simple, elegant and all in one solution that is quick and intuitive to use.