The ability to shoot 360° and VR footage opens up all kinds of exciting doors – the Pixpro SP360 4K Dual Pack gives you that capability and is designed to be straightforward to set up and use.
There’s so much buzz about Virtual Reality and 360° stills and movies these days, and anyone who has had the opportunity to look at the end results through a VR headset or on a smartphone can testify to just how impressive they look. Suddenly you’re in the heart of the action, and you can look around and up and down just as you would if you were there in the flesh. You almost feel as though you could reach out and touch the world around you and yet, up until now, it’s been challenging for most people to create their own material.
All this has changed, however, with the arrival of the Pixpro SP360 4K Dual Pack. This clever bundle consists of two SP360 4K cameras, each housing a 12-megapixel sensor that’s capable of delivering ultra high definition 4K video at 30fps and with a distinctive bulbous lens that offers a 235° angle of view. Individually they are unquestionably stunning, but joined together back-to-back using the mounting system included in the pack – which is somewhat akin to a fancy selfie stick – they are totally formidable, capable of delivering 360° video and spherical VR in every direction, including beneath you.
Obviously this all-encompassing field of view makes it a little difficult to shoot footage where you won’t loom large in every scene, but there’s a solution in the box in the form of a remote control that enables you to operate both cameras from a distance, with a reassuring green light coming on to indicate that all is well. With filming complete, the microSD cards are removed and footage downloaded so that it can be run through the free-to-download stitching software. From here it’s possible to upload your videos to YouTube or Facebook where they can be viewed in 360° glory.
For enthusiasts it’s amazing to be able to get hands-on involved with such cutting-edge technology, but for professional filmmakers the potential is also there to get ahead of the game and to offer this kind of distinctive footage to your clients. Get in early and it’s likely they will never have been offered this kind of service before.
To really show what such a cutting edge piece of kit can provide you need an event that genuinely would benefit from a 360° or VR approach, and it’s difficult to think of one that’s more fitting than the legendary Notting Hill Carnival, which has been taking place in west London since 1966.
This year Trinidad and Tobago-born Dingiswayo Smenkh-ka-ra, the digital director of Discover Carnival Magazine, had the opportunity to take the Pixpro SP360 4K Dual Pack kit along to the event that’s officially Europe’s biggest street party, and he joined two million others who had come to soak up the exuberant partying.
“I had previously attended London Tech Week at the Excel Centre in London,” he says, “with a view to seeing what technology might be emerging that would help me to create a better and more immersive record of the carnival events I was attending. When I encountered the Pixpro SP360 4K Dual Pack I was instantly captivated by what it had to offer: I thought its VR and 360° capabilities offered enormous potential, and even just trying it out at the show I could envisage some interesting ways to use it.
” Taking place over August Bank Holiday Weekend, the Notting Hill Carnival has gathered a reputation over the years for playing host to colourful parades, DJs, brightly-costumed dancers, steel band competitions and traditional Caribbean food, and it’s a heaving mass of humanity where it’s often difficult to move for the sheer weight of the crowd attending.
In short, it was always going to be a serious challenge for Dingiswayo and his Pixpro cameras, but fortunately his media credentials allowed him access to some of the floats and a selection of privileged press positions, and he was able to set up in a number of places where it was possible to achieve an unobstructed view of the colourful proceedings.
“I was struck by just how easy it was to work with the Pixpro,” he says. “I only received the camera the week before the event, but by the time I arrived there I felt very confident with it and could focus on getting the pictures I needed rather than having to work out how to use it. Being able to work with a 360° viewpoint was exciting: it’s a new kind of storytelling that enables a different kind of conversation to be had with the viewer, and it presents them with a viewpoint they might never have experienced before. They’re right in the heart of the action and it gives them a sense of what it’s like to be an actual part of the event, with everything taking place around them.
“I really enjoyed all the facilities that the Pixpro offered, and the way that it was possible with the same camera to produce stills, conventional ‘flat’ video and 360° and VR material. It gave me lots of options, and the fact that I could operate it with the remote control was impressive, since I didn’t want to feature in every picture.”
As with any creative person, Dingiswayo found himself inspired by the novelty of the gear he was using, while also enjoying the fact that it was so lightweight and easy to carry around, set up and take down, all crucial considerations when a huge, surging crowd is involved. This being his first venture into immersive video, the challenge of seeing things through fresh eyes was also one that was hugely appreciated, and the experience gained over the four days spent at the event gave him plenty of food for thought and an appetite for using this new technology on a regular basis in the future.
“I would say that the approach the Pixpro enabled is almost a USP for me already,” he says, “since it’s such a strong style and way of working, it enables me to deliver something new rather than something others have done before. It also made me think that, next time I cover a carnival with the camera, I’m definitely going to be looking to work from more vantage points within the crowd: the press positions were great, but the energy and vibrancy that I achieved with a view from the crowd’s perspective was really special.”