Google JUMP with Alex Wells

On November 6th, 2017 Olivier Leroux of ImpactVR and I found ourselves in beautiful Mount Currie, a 40 minute drive North East of Whistler BC. Our mission: to capture the essence of Hoop Dance and indigenous performance using the GoPro Odyssey with Google JUMP. For those of you unfamiliar, JUMP is an online stitching and 3D (stereoscopic) processing service by Google, designed to work with select premium 360° camera rigs. 

Olivier and I were selected by Google to create an immersive 360° video experience, with our goal being to take viewers on a picturesque journey of the BC coast, learning about indigenous culture, traditions, and life. The end goal is to create several cultural spotlights, and to release them on YouTube as a mini-series. 

When we got to Mount Currie, we met with brothers Daniel (left) and Alex Wells (right). Alex and Daniel have been involved with dance and performance ever since they were kids. Practically born into it, they spent their childhood surrounded by music and dance, learning every day. Daniel sings and plays percussion, while Alex is a 3 times Hoop Dance world champion. We spent the day learning, laughing and capturing footage in their hometown. 

Our goal throughout the day was to capture a single performance, but from several beautiful outdoor sights, and combine these shots into one immersive story. The trick for Olivier and myself was to place the camera front and centre, giving the end viewer an up-close and intimate experience. Alex is used to performing on stage for hundreds of onlookers, but this was his opportunity to put on a special performance just for one - but that can be seen by everyone. 

The JUMP system allowed us to place the camera very close to our performers without having to worry about parallax distortion, which is an optic side effect from having camera multiple lenses facing the same subject.

The best way to imagine parallax distortion is to slightly cross your eyes when looking at an object in front of you. Notice how you see doubles? Now imagine what might happen if you had 16 eyes... The JUMP system automatically compensates for this effect when stitching the footage together, not only allowing for a seamless end-viewer experience, but through a virtual reality headset, the scene is 3-dimensional.

This meant that we were able to spend more time focussed on getting the shot, and less time focused on how to avoid objects moving from one lens to the next. A huge time saver, and creativity booster!

The next issue to tackle in 360° video is camera movement. While filming standard (non 360° video) the director can experiment with a variety of camera movements which can portray different moods, create tension or make a point. This does not translate in virtual reality and 360° video. After figuring out how to hide the camera rig or mount, a 360° video director must remember that all but slow and smooth movements must be avoided in order to create the most comfortable viewing experience possible. 

Luckily, Olivier and I are one of only 6 groups worldwide who get to test and use a new stabilization device by Finnish company LeViteZer; the 360 Pro Gimbal. This gimbal was INCREDIBLE. As seen in the above teaser video, it handled the weight of the Odyssey with ease, and created smooth shots without any trouble. Big thanks to Kim and his team at LeViteZer.

Our day finished lakeside, where we captured video from the ground and the sky. Mounting the GoPro Odyssey to an aerial vehicle was out of the question since the battery pack and camera together weigh over 15 kg. Instead we used our backup camera, the GoPro Omni. This 6 lens little brother of the Odyssey doesn't capture stereoscopic (3D) video, but at just shy of 1 kg, is much more manageable attached to a drone. 

For more information on JUMP, and how you can get involved, click here. To learn more about Alex Wells, visit his website here. To follow LeViteZer and learn about the release of their 360 Pro stabilizer, visit http://levitezer.com/ or like them on Facebook here