Jump in a GT-R & experience the first ever 360 degree lap round the Le Mans track

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Hamilton+Kidd, a creative content studio based in London has just produced a nice 360 video. Jump in a GT-R & experience the first ever 360 degree lap round the Le Mans track:

An interview with Ben Kidd, animation director:

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What is your background and how did you come into virtual reality?

Hamilton+Kidd produces CGI animation for global brands, used across their marketing, advertising and PR. For us Virtual Reality opens up enormous creative possibilities and with our expertise in video production and 3D animation it felt natural to start moving into VR.

How this project was born? What were your client requirements?

We recently acquired a Freedom360 Explorer Plus. We began immediately to talk to our clients about producing 360 content and approached Nismo.TV about 360 video. They were very excited about the possibilities and were covering the Le Mans race two weeks later, we love motorsport and we all realised it was the perfect opportunity for VR!
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The 360 video is produced with care and some customization. How did you do to add the speedmeter or the map of the track?

We felt we could offer more to the medium than simply filming a lap with a 360 rig. By adding a CGI introduction and augmenting the experience with graphics, we’d be able to make things even more immersive. Most people have never experienced VR content before and by taking 20 seconds to introduce viewers into the experience we wanted to ensure that the scene was set and they were fully prepared to enter hyperdrive. To add the speedometer and map we use Mettle Skybox and After Effects.
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You mounted the Freedom Explorer Plus on the car. How did you manage the vibrations to record the race?

We were planning to race the car around the track at maximum speed and built a rig to handle +-3G and speeds of up to 196mph; the three pump action large suction mounts and aluminium rigging were enough to tow the car. We dampened vibration with cable ties tightened just enough to kill any oscillation and stop vibration from building up. On the race day however we were told that we had to run with a speed restriction of 100km/ph so we had no worries (other than how to make it look fast!!).

What one piece of advice would you give to people interested in producing a 360 video on a car?

Test, test and test again. Push pass the limits of what will be required. Designing a rig fit for the conditions, e.g. a race track is a completely different equation to offroad. Designing a rig fit for the 360 explorer, due to the added weight, is a different equation again. With any kind of filming so many problems can come from nowhere, especially at the last minute. You should try to find out all of these hidden issues way before you HAVE to shoot and consider every eventuality. Test the whole pipeline over and over until you aren’t worried; then when something does go wrong at the last minute, which it will, you will be relaxed and prepared to react.

You used Autopano Video Pro to stitch video frames. How did you find the application in doing the job?

Autopano Video Pro was just fantastic. 9 out of 10 times it was a one click stitch! We found a nice trick though for maximum quality; One particular shot stitched incredibly well, better even than I could manually stitch, it was bright and sunny and we were surrounded by race cars (perfect!). We applied the template from this stitch across all our shots and we were blown away by the results. The light was low and it was raining, so naturally the footage from the GoPros had different exposures. Autopano compensated for this beautifully. All in all for the 18mins of the lap that I stitched together, it only took me an hour before rendering. I rendered out to Quicktime ready for editing and graphics.
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360 video is just at its early stage. How do you see its development in the next few years? Do you have other VR projects in the pipe?

We have lots of VR projects in the pipeline, all of which involve some kind of integration with graphics and CGI. We know we need to accelerate learning what works best in 360. So we are evolving our 11 years of production expertise into Virtual Reality and resetting our storytelling brains. In the next few years we’ll see huge leaps in camera quality and firmware, which will start to make the medium incredibly accessible. We also see lots of areas of the production process that could be simplified. Simple tools simply equal more creative freedom. I also imagine that from an audience’s perspective, 360 video will start to become very familiar and the novelty will start to wear off. It will become imperative to truly understand how to deliver effective and engaging content within VR. For us, we love the challenge; the possibilities in Virtual Reality are endless and it’s a blank slate to get incredibly creative.

Thank you Ben for sharing this experience. We loved your work, once again congratulations.

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