Behind the Scenes of the Honda Civic Hatchback VR Experience

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Honda has recently re-designed and re-engineered its new Civic. There is no doubt that the result is a car created with a unique personality and sporty soul. Now is your chance! Honda published a 360 video which has a bunch of interesting angles, so you can really immerse yourself in the new 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback.
Luckily, we found the two-UK based 360 video production agencies – Pro360VR and Mad Cow Films – which produced collaboratively this stunning footage. Below you will find answers to a few questions and get more information about the shot.
Jonny, Justin, what are your backgrounds and how did you come into virtual reality?
My name is Jonny Simpson-Lee, owner of Pro360VR and DOP on this project for Honda. After a very long career in CGI, Animation & Motion Graphics I decided to look for a change and ventured into Photography. Through connections I’d previously made through my work as a CGI Artist I was offered an opportunity to research the the possibilities of 360 video production. This was back in 2014 where we had very limited technology with very few avenues to learn the basics but I became addicted to it and strongly believed it would become an exciting new medium that was worth the painful learning curve that 360 video presents.
I am Justin Hackney, director working for Mad Cow Films. I have a background in advertising and shooting documentaries but I’ve always been driven by technology. When the first headset was available I had to get my hands on it and at that point there was no going back. One thing I realised early on was that VR films were lacking the kind of engagement and momentum that you would experience in a virtual space, mainly because of the limitations of shooting VR, especially in the early days of VR filming, for me, these limitations or rules of VR we’re the catalyst for shooting- I’m a rule breaker and I felt there was a reason to experiment… to prove people wrong and explore different ways in shooting to help the progress the creative development of the platform in general.
Could you tell more information about the project. What were the objectives?
JH: The original brief was quite straight forward, a series of 5 locked off shots that tied into the story/experience of the content we were shooting to promote the new Honda Civic. I didn’t want to shoot a locked off film, I’ve seen plenty before and I get bored by it- I’m way past the initial wonder and excitement of using VR for the first time so I wanted more from this film. Keep it moving! The more I experimented with shooting techniques and rigging, the more I wanted to have a sense of speed and progression, this created challenges for shooting, synching, stitching and all areas of post- but it was worth the headache because the final piece contains all sorts of very dynamic shots mounted to the car, bikes, drones and body mounted on our character. This really brings allot of momentum and energy to the film.
Can you explain what kind of hardware and software you have used to capture this VR piece of content?
JSL: Due the variety of challenges we knew we’d be facing we used a variety of hardware to best accommodate the scenes Justin had planned. In car shots are always a challenge due to the close proximity and generally smaller rigs are used with adapted GoPro’s with third party wide angle lenses, in our case the Izugar MKX 19 lenses. These rigs usually use 2, 3 or 4 cameras compared to the larger rigs meaning the overall resolution is compromised over better stitching. We decided to use 6 adapted GoPro’s in a standard rig by Freedom360 for the in car footage to give us the best of both worlds.
For the aerial footage, we teamed up with the guys from Skyedge 360, a specialist 360 Drone company in London.
We managed to obtain a GoPro Omni which at first I was concerned about due to the size of the rig and the larger parallax dead zone it would create compared to the smaller rigs such as the Freedom F360. Very quickly I realised how great this rig is. The fact the cameras are Gen-Locked is a game changer as it eliminates syncing issues which in turn vastly improves the stitching. The workflow is simplified through the Omni importer which provided huge benefits during the post stage.
Software wise, we used Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Autopano Giga along with After Effects, Skybox Studio and Mocha VR.
JH: It was actually just as the omni was released that we were shooting this, we managed to get our hands on it for the last shoot day which completely transformed our workflow – if only we had it for the other days my hair probably wouldn’t be so grey.
How did the Omni Importer affect your overall workflow?
JSL: As any 360 video creator will tell you, 360 throws up new challenges that are not experienced in conventional video production. Especially accurate syncing of the cameras, the Omni is a Gen-Locked system that has revolutionized 360 video capture meaning syncing is no longer an issue. In addition, the Omni allows each camera to act as a clone of the master camera meaning settings etc can be changed through just the one camera, a heaven sent feature when time is against you in a shoot environment. The Omni importer reduces the time spent in post meaning we can review footage faster and eases the pressure on DIT’s (Digital Image Technician).
Screen Grap - APV
What one piece of advice would you give to people interested in producing 360 videos?
JSL: Practice, practice, practice! Every situation will throw up different challenges and it’s crucial to know what equipment best suits the environment to be shot. Run multiple tests, learn the parallax dead zones and limitations of every rig you can get your hands on. If you’re knowledge and experience with GoPro’s is limited, run tests and experiment as to what all the different functions of the cameras do. Experiment with different mounting options and learn why you would want to shoot with rigs in different ways such as shooting in the diamond, the standard angled position of cube rigs over shooting square, where the rig is positioned square on so all the cameras are aligned rather than angled in the conventional diamond configuration. If you only plan on starting out with 1 rig, I would highly recommend getting the Omni, it’s a robust rig filled with features that will make learning the art of 360 video production a breeze compared with the conventional rigs available.
JH: If you’re interested in shooting, get the Omni, it streamlines the whole process and allows you to focus on what your shooting instead of making sure the bloody thing is working. Explore and experiment as much as you can before the shoot, you will probably have to do post on your film at some point so try and minimize that as much as possible by testing out your shots before the shoot otherwise you might end up with a post nightmare. DON’T DO A TRIPOD SHOOT! Yes, it fun to look around in VR but come on it’s been done already, try something new- it’s still early days of VR so experiment don’t follow the rules, make them!
How did the Honda team react when they watched the footage?
JH: Honda loves innovation and was behind us the whole way as was the Creative Agency Digitas LBI. They all knew we were trying to do new things, difficult shots, techniques and ways of filming without that guarantee of it all working, so it was a huge payoff to see them as chuffed as we were with the final result.
  • Ben Huss-Smickler | May 16, 2017 at 16 h 44 min

    It was great working with both MadCow and Pro360VR. Being able to quickly stitch 360 footage from the Omni to Kolor after filming from the drone really smoothed the workflow for us.

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