During the 2017 Oscars Ceremony Samsung ran an ad on a major national TV network featuring 360 virtual reality video. For such a high profile ad to feature 360 video just shows how rapidly this way of communicating with audiences is exploding.
Shot on the impressive Samsung Gear 360° camera, this 360° video takes you through The Santa Village in Rovaniemi and into Santa's Grotto to see the real Santa Clause at work. Then it's onto Santa's mailroom to see all of the real letters coming in from Children all across the world. You can see this 360° video below:
The 2016 Formula 1 season saw the quickest pit stop ever seen in motor racing, in June the Williams F1 team set a record breaking pit stop of 1.92 seconds. Let’s just think about that for a moment, the 21 man crew takes less than 2 seconds to jack the car into the air, remove and replace the 4 tires and let the car down again. So, with the support of Sports Illustrated we went to the Williams HQ in Wantage to film these incredible pit stops.
I was lucky enough to be at Photokina last week to experience all the sights and sounds of a photographic industry in a considerable state of flux (something I will be talking about in detail in my next post). Of all the brands which made announcements there was one which stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Fuji and its unveiling of the GFX 50S was nothing short of a show stopper.
Virtual reality is still in it’s infancy. Despite all of the coverage in the media, what we’re seeing now is only the beginning of what is possible. With global interest in virtual reality growing on a daily basis, we ask: what will the future of virtual reality mean for the marketing industry?
Last month we flew to America to shoot a very special project for Sports Illustrated. We were commissioned to shoot an interactive 360° image; a high-quality portrait; and a 360° video of the USA Women's 8s Olympic rowing team. As part of the project we shot a 'behind-the-scenes' video to give you a peek at all the work that went into shooting this project...
‘Multi media’, ‘immersive’, ‘mixed content’, ‘360 VR’ are buzz words and phrases we hear increasingly. These expressions mean different things to different people and it is interesting to see how clients do or don’t engage with ‘new media’ (yet another ambiguous expression we often hear).
I have worked with Sports Illustrated previously, but my latest project for them was by far the most ambitious yet. I was commissioned to carry out a special shoot of the USA Olympic Women’s 8s rowing team. It was certainly no ordinary photoshoot. Let me explain: in years gone by a shoot for a magazine would be limited in scope to simply shooting a super high quality still image. So I had to shoot one of those.
In June 2016 we were commissioned by Sports Illustrated to produce a ground breaking 360 degree video of the women's eight U.S. Olympic rowing team on one of their training sessions. Shot on Lake Carnegie, the GoPro multi-camera rig required a specially constructed carbon fibre support to minimise vibrations from the boat. The 360° video is ground breaking material as it provides the closest experience of riding on-board with an Olympic rowing team in full flow. The resulting footage provides a unique and dynamic perspective for the viewer.
Mounting 360° camera rigs has become something of a speciality for the Gardner Creative team; we have had huge success with our unique mounting system which allows the viewer to access places where no human can go. The 360 video from the boat illustrates just how powerful a tool it is for storytelling. You’re actually ‘on’ the boat when Coxswain Katelin Snyder gets the news that her fiancé Nareg Guregian and his team mates Anders Weiss have been selected for the USA team rowing pairs at Rio. This was not a setup it was totally spontaneous.
In addition to the 360° video we produced an interactive 360° image and a stunning portrait of the team. The interactive 360° image puts the viewer in the incredible boathouse surrounded by the rowing team. On each team member is a hotspot which the user can click on to see a video interview – a ground breaking piece of 360° content for Sports Illustrated. Never before have users been able to get so close to the crew and the boats, and get a real insight into how the team prepares for the Olympics. Click here to view the 360° interactive image. The portrait, which is being used for the Sports Illustrated magazine and as a lead-in image for the online article, features all of the Women’s Eight rowing team. Click here to view the full article and see how all three content pieces feature in the online article.
The 360° video, combined with the 360° interactive image, represent the future of storytelling. Creatively using a combination of these different mediums we were able to give a unique behind-the-scenes insight into the team. We really ‘pushed the boat out’ with this project; delivering something that simply cannot be achieved using traditional techniques.
In April, YouTube announced that it was launching its live-streaming for 360 video, something which none of the competition currently offer. The service was launched with California's Coachella music and arts festival - the very first thing to be broadcast by YouTube in this format.
Our latest 360° video Crossrail takes you on a Journey though the tunnels of Southeast London.
This 360° video gives viewers an unique opportunity to explore Crossrail’s tunnels and track installation progress in the southeast section of the route.
The video was shot from the rear carriage of Crossrail’s concreting train as it travelled along the new permanent tracks from Plumstead railhead through to Victoria Dock Portal.
The very future of the Steel industry in UK is a pretty hot topic at the moment with thousands of jobs at stake. Before SSI steel closed in Hartlepool I was lucky enough to shoot a 360 panorama inside the steel works of steel being cast. The heat was so intense it really is difficult to convey just how hot it was(made all the more unbearable by the thick wool safety clothing we had to wear, the plastic surfaces on the camera were getting tacky and the cables were becoming worryingly 'floppy'.
I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of Golf but when the picture Editor of Sports Illustrated called to see if I was interested in shooting a portrait of Golf Legend Tom Watson at St Andrews in Scotland I leapt at the chance.
It is one thing to take an assignment like this on but when you are commissioned by one of the biggest names in the magazine World to shoot a high profile portrait which will accompany an article where he will be announcing his retirement from the Masters you do feel the pressure.
It may have passed you by but a couple of weeks was back to the future week Or to be precise the date that Marty set on the DeLorean time machine for his trip into the future. October 21st 2015. I was invited to sit on a panel with Peter Salmon head of BBC studios and Phillip Collins, no not of Genesis fame, but a columnist on 'The Times' who was formerly Tony Blair's speech writer.
We were invited to imagine what the future of the media would be.
A year in the planning but positively my favourite pano to date, and I'm delighted to say we won a Gold award in the Epson International Pano Awards 2015. A massive thank you to everyone who helped make my dream a reality.
New lenses are released all the time by manufacturers. Zeiss in many ways is 'King of the the hill' with unimpeachable quality which dates back to the dawn of camera lens production - in fact Zeiss celebrate their 125th anniversary this year.
I have been lucky enough to be working with Zeiss for the past few years and therefore I tend to get the occasional question from shooters I have met along the way.
But I cannot recall anything like the level of interest from fellow shooters, getting many message - from as far away as Africa and they all ask the same question.
Just how good are the Milvus ?
I do intend to answer that question in full and post a series of real world images some of them shot in an exciting but quite high pressure situation in part two of this post.
Milvus - What's in a name? On the face of it Milvus does seem to be an unusual name but if you have followed the last few lens releases,by Zeiss you will know it is just the latest in line of families of lenses named after birds, Otus is an owl, Loxia is a finch, Batis is a flycatcher and Milvus is a Red Kite a majestic and agile raptor. Whether you approve of the naming strategy or not it does give a clue to,the fact that Zeiss is not your run off the mill manufacturer - Zeiss is a thinker.
But why do we need the Milvus? What was wrong with the ZE and ZF lenses?
I could baffle you and myself by referring to lens data sheets so I will give you my, concise I hope take on it.
Let me state right here right now there is nothing 'wrong' with the ZE and ZF lenses, which are now referred to as the 'classics'
It really all is about the march of time and as excellent and joyous the Classics (still) are to use they are from another time - a time before increasingly high density and unforgiving seniors came into being.
Camera are so good these days and capable of delivering such remarkable detail they will expose any weak link in the chain and often that can be the lens.
With this in mind Zeiss revisited the ZE and ZF range and today we have the Milvus range.
Some of the lenses in the Milvus range feature and entirely new optical design - notably the 50mm F1.4 and 85mm F1.4 and some of the designs were just tweaked with new coatings and minor enhancements.
The result being cutting edge lenses cloaked in 21st century dust proofed housings which are a delight to use.
As a stills lens range I can attest to just how,good they are but there is more than just a little 'nod' to video shooters with all the Milvus family being colour matched, meaning no battle with color correction in post if shooting with different focal lengths, the ZF lenses capable of having the aperture ring 'declicked' by the user(a la Loxia)
I was lucky enough to use the Milvus 50mm F1.4 and the Milvus 100mm F2.0 in a real world assignment ahead of launch. In appearance they could not be more different to the Classic Zeiss lenses i have used for some years now. Very modern and contemporary bringing the physical appearance of the lenses bang up to date.
The all new 50mm has an interesting optical design quirk - the front lens lament is actually concave , not convex which I had not previous seen before.
How did they fare? How did I manage manual focus in the fast moving and sometimes dramatic scenario Festival of St Felix in Vilafranca in Catalonia where teams to compete to build the remarkable human towers?
Just how good are they in the real world?
I had been considering shooting the festival of St Felix in Vilafranca in Catalonia for a little while and when the chance came to try the new Milvus lenses at the event I made the decision to shoot the event entirely on the Milvus 50mm F1.4 and Milvus 100mm F2.0 macro, an easy enough decision I hear you say but there is the small nagging matter of focusing - I'm 51 and my eyes are not as good as they were and it is quite a while since I have shot action in a live news situation. No matter how brilliant a lens is if you can't focus it accurately then it is all for nothing. Let's just say my palms were sweating just a little more than they would have normally been - even though the mercury in the thermometer was pushing north of 30 deg C (86F)
I was pleasantly surprised - very pleasantly surprised.
My palms may have been sweaty but the new focusing ring, is smooth rubber (a la Otus) not milled metal was a treat to use.
I'm not sure what, if anything, special Zeiss has done to the focusing throw on the the new Milvus range but my focusing hit rate was better than I dared hope - by my reckoning 9 out of ten shots razor sharp in fast moving situations too. I was doubtless assisted by fitting the specialist Canon eg-S focusing screen to my Canon 6D but I believe there is more to it than that. I can't recall getting that many sharp shots on a 100mm in a high pressure situation. It is almost like it is easier to judge the focusing with the beautifully damped and calibrated focusing mechanism.Whatever they have done I am massively grateful. While we are on the subject of Zeiss lens 'hocus pocus' I want to talk about the look and feel of the images. I use a Zeiss Otus 55mm and 85mm lens and one of the defining qualities of this family is that is has a certain 'pop' of sharpness and contrast, an undefinable almost 3D quality which until the Otus family I had never previously seen in images from a DSLR and some savvy clients have commented on (yes, really)
Well the good news for those of us who cannot quite financially stretch to the Otus range is that the Milvus family posses it too, if my experiences are anything to go by, the images having an indefinable sparkle which makes them stand out.
While we are the small matter of resolution what impressed me greatly was even though I was using a Canon 6D with a 'mere' 20megapixels was just how well the images held together at 100percent.
Firstly the Zeiss Milvus 50mm F1.4
Now for the Zeiss Milvus 100mm F2.
Firstly is shows what you can achieve with just a couple of well chosen prime lenses of superb quality - which allow you to crop deep into images and still hold up beautifully, even if it is 'just' a 20megapixel camera.
Should you buy one?
That is really down to you but if you are a Canon or Nikon shooter you could do an awful lot worse than to check out the new Milvus range which are significantly more affordable than their 'big' Otus brothers while delivering remarkable and useable image quality, something that you might like to bear in mind if you are about to upgrade to something like the Canon 5DS.
One thing I have not mentioned is video - and that is only because I did not shoot any video with the lenses - but if you do shoot video you might like to give these lenses even closer consideration as Zeiss had one eye on video shooters when they made the Milvus range which is colour matched and has a usefully long focus throw.
We were commissioned to shoot a 360 of the "Human Towers" in Catalonia for the Telegraph Witness the incredible tradition of the Human Towers in this breath taking and emotional 360 still and video. 600 people of all ages take part in an attempt to create one of the most difficult towers not successfully achieved since 1881. A masterpiece of solidarity and cohesion.
In 2010 UNESCO declared the tradition ‘A Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.
The video is best viewed on a smartphone or tablet using the Youtube app. Alternatively use Chrome or Firefox.
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360 Virtual Reality experiences are frequently associated with high action situations such as motorsport or aviation stunt experiences but they can be a valuable tool for telling stories and giving the viewer access to places they simply would not be able to go - such as an archeological dig. Last week we were commissioned by Crossrail (the biggest civil engineering project in Europe) to shoot a 360 video project with a difference. Close to London’s Liverpool Street station Crossrail archaeologists have uncovered a mass burial, suspected to be victims of The Great Plague in 1665. Our job was to capture this unique place and give viewers an immersive 360˚ experience.Anyone who spends anytime in London at all will have seen the scale of the construction work, and any construction project of this scale in a major city with a remarkable historic past will inevitably uncover tantalising traces of the past.Thousands of commuters pass through Liverpool street station every day and I'm sure very few of them are aware of the history just feet away from them. Close to Liverpool street station stood Bethlem hospital which dates back to 1247 and was immortalised in 'A Rakes Progress' by William Hogarth in 1733.Here is the resulting video please note it works very well on a smart phone or tablet running the YouTube App and on a desktop running Firefox or Chrome at the moment Youtube does not yet support full 360 navigation for Safari
It was quite an experience and we could not help but wonder who the victims were and what sort of lives they led. The 360 VR experience we created for Crossrail will give an insight as to what it is like to actually be on an archaeological dig letting many more viewers than just the passers by who where lucky enough to catch a glimpse from the viewing platform.
I mentioned earlier that 360 VR is frequently associated with high action situations - stay tuned, as soon we will be sharing an experience which has taken 360 VR experience creation to new heights.
Just back from Paris where I was lucky enough to shoot a 360 degree photograph of the incredible Sainte Chapelle in Paris for the Daily Telegraph. This 13th century chapel with its kaleidoscopic stained glass windows has just undergone a big restoration programme. I shot it using the Canon 6D with the Zeiss Distagon 15mm ZE lens on a Gitzo 5562LTS.