Thursday, March 31, 2011

LEXUS + yellowBird + YouTube = WIN!

"Standard" Video from the event is not 360, but provides a great comparison with the 360 experience.

A screenshot from showing the new LEXUS CT 200h in front of Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye that was the canvas for a spectacular special effects show.

It is not the first 360 video that yellowBird has placed on YouTube, but it is the first to show off their new hotspotting linkage to more video experiences.  LEXUS choose yellowBird to document their Netherlands launch part of the new LEXUS CT 200h, the world's first full hybrid luxury compact vehicle.  Document they did.

Visuals go off around the LEXUS CT 200h on the facade of the Chateau.
 The project is home to at least eight different 360 video experiences, each accessible from the same YouTube page via the "L" icons placed around you from the start of the first video.  As you click and drag to look around you, you see that you are in the middle of the event from the start.  Before you, graphic projections dance across the facade of Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye and the new Lexus appears in the foreground illuminated by the light show.  To your right, a small lit up tent seems to be where the pulsing drumbeat supporting the show is eminating.  You click on the LEXUS icon above it and are taken inside the little tent to a viewpoint right on the drummer's set.  With the 360 control, you can watch the drum solo rain down on the skins all around you. 

Medi makes it rain beats
 You have to back out to the previous video to proceed here, which I think is a flaw, but a very small one.  The next icon you find in the original video leads you inside the big tent, where the party is going on.

There you are, in front of the showcased CT 200h.  Lexus icons becon you to explore more.  One sits above the car and one in the distance above the stage.  Clicking on the car icon, you are taken for a drive down a European country lane with a beautiful driver.  If you've ever tried to shoot video inside a car in the daytime, you know that contrast between light inside and briter light outside can be difficult, but the yellowBird shooters found a way around that with their new camera from Point Grey Research, the Ladybug 3.  The experience is extremely immersive here. 

There is even an option to go outside the vehicle as it drives down the lane.  Clicking "VUE EXTERIEURE" will place you on the hood of the car for the drive.  Clicking "RETOUR" will take you back to the party to check out the live music from Medi.  They start the set with the first single, "How Would You Do It?" off the new album, You Got Me (Moving).  The camera is well placed between the act and the audience, allowing you view whatever you want.  Like all 360 videos from music events, the online viewer should have the best seat in the house.  There is also another tune option, "Like a Runaway" to explore.

All together this LEXUS project by yellowBird for YouTube is one of the most immersive online experiences yet, will likely turn the heads of marketing executives around the world, and maybe even collect a few web awards.  All involved certainly deserve too.

As an immersive video evangelist, I do have some criticisms of the project, however.  First of all, this project has a limited field of view in that the viewer is blocked from looking straight up and on the initial home video, this design decision has consequences.  The very top of the beautiful architecture of the Chateau is cutoff, giving me the sense that I can't really see everything including the very top of the amazing visuals that the project is build around in the first place.  Dislike.  My second issue is less severe, but odd none the less.  For some reason, when the viewer pauses the video (say to grab a screenshot) the 360 navigation becomes locked and the LEXUS icons disappear.  Both of these issues are new to yellowBird projects, and I hope they don't represent a trend. 

When Immersive Media demostrated its live streaming 360 video capabilities, it reduced the zenith view in order to save on bandwidth for the stream, essentially determining that the view above the camera of the ceiling wasn't worth the transmission costs.  Personally, I think it is the freedom of movement that engages the user and the zenith is a big part of that, it's another whole dimension to explore.  Removing it didn't work for the now defunct Immersive Media and I don't think it works well here. 

One reason yellowBird or LEXUS may have made this design decision is to aid first time users of the 360 video, who do tend to get lost around the zenith view as they learn the navigation controls.  There has long been a learning curve to this new medium, and for some, like my mother, it is simply too steep.  As a large commercial project, the reason would be understandable, but with many very inexpensive 360 degree "cylindrical" video technologies emerging, yellowBird may need to brand their offering in contrast to the cheap stuff. 

More to come in the next post about some of those very cheap options for 360 video coming online, but here's a new one that has received a lot of attention today, which is good, because they are depending on crowdsourcing the development via -  Considering that GoPano is already 15% to their goal in just half of the first day bodes well for the project.  You might want to consider backing it, you know, since you're reading this blog and all...

BTW, thank you for reading.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Welcome to Immersive Video from Condition ONE

My Freedom Or Death - Condition ONE Beta from Danfung Dennis on Vimeo.

Taken from DSLR NEWS Shooter:

Fresh from his documentary win at Sundance, cinematic journalist Danfung Dennis has announced some early details of his next project called Condition ONE. It looks to be a highly immersive virtual reality video project which Danfung hopes will allow viewers to experience news events more fully.

Danfung hasn’t disclosed too much detail about the actual system used other than to say it is based on a Canon video-capable DSLR which can capture the entire human field of view as a distorted circular image. The image is subsequently projected onto the inside of a dome for immersive viewing. The same image can also be displayed on an Ipad app which allows the user to pan around the video image as it plays.

The video [above] shows just how it would work and was shot not in a sterile test environment but rather on the frontlines in Libya, by photojournalist Patrick Chauvel. The new technology gives the viewer a totally different sense of what is happening.

Danfung Dennis on the project - “Visual imagery can be a powerful medium for truth. The images of napalmed girls screaming by Nick Ut, the street execution of a Vietcong prisoner by Eddie Adams, the shell-shocked soldier by Don McCullin – these iconic images have burned into our collective consciousness as reminders of war’s consequences.

But, this visual language is dying. The traditional outlets are collapsing. In the midst of this upheaval, we must invent a new language. Condition ONE combines the power of the still image and storytelling, the emotional engagement of tactile experiences, and the compelling nature of being an active participant in an effort to pioneer a new language that is so immersive, that it will shake viewers out of their numbness to traditional media and provide them a powerful emotional experience. Instead of opening a window to glimpse another world, we are attempting to bring the viewer into that world.

Our early prototype camera uses a Canon DSLR to capture the entire human field of view. It creates a highly distorted circular image. Once that image is projected onto the inside of a dome (image a sphere cut in half), the distortion melts away, giving the viewer a visceral sense that they are in the scene- the traditional frame no longer exists.. We have developed a virtual version of this dome for the iPad, which uses the full capabilities of the device. Condition ONE is developing next generation stories for next generation platforms.

Through our work we hope to shake people from their indifference to war, and to bridge the disconnect between the realities on the ground and the public consciousness at home. By bearing witness and shedding light on another’s pain and despair, we are trying to invoke our humanity and a response to act. Is it possible that war is an archaic and primitive human behavior that society is capable of advancing past? Is it possible that the combination of photojournalism, filmmaking and technology can plead for peace and contribute to this future?”

About Danfung Dennis:
Danfung has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2006. His images have been published in Newsweek, Time and The New York Times. His footage in PBS Frontline Obama’s War was nominated for a 2010 Emmy Award. His documentary, Hell and Back Again, won the World Cinema Jury and Cinematography Awards at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. He is the founder and CEO of tech/media startup Condition ONE. His background is in Applied Economics and Business Management, consulting small and medium sized enterprises in emerging markets.

You can find out more about Condition ONE here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

LOUIS VUITTON brings Paris Fashion Week 2011 to you in 360° Video

Screenshot from 360° Video from the Front Row of the Louis Vuitton Fashion Show 
yellowBird, the busiest 360 video production company alive today, has done it again, and this time, they've done it with serious style.  Fashion icon Louis Vuitton tapped the Netherlands-based team led by Marc Groothelm to bring the world to the front row of its Fashion Show at Paris Fashion Week 2011.  According to The Telegraph:

"Widely said to be a "money no object" event for the multi-billion pound French luxury brand, the show was staged in a massive black tent in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum, with a cast of saucy French maids with feather dusters, four hotel doormen, and 67 models, including Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.  The models were ferried up to the stage in four gilded elevators, inspired by those in Claridge's Hotel in London."

The user experience is almost as elegant as one would imagine the actual experience of the show was.  Once at the website, a full screen time lapse video begins panning the courtyard at The Louvre as the enormous black tent is erected. Upon entering the website, the user is provided with three options: Sit in the front Row, Watch the Show with [Designer] Mark Jacobs, or Enter the Insider's Experience.  Sit in the Front Row is an incredibly immersive, 12 minute experience of the Fashion Show itself.  Sitting in the front row, with the ability to watch the models from all angles as they file by is (almost) as good an experience as actually being there.

Watch the Show with Mark Jacobs is traditional video footage of the desginer and assistant watching the Fashion Show and providing detailed commentary on the designs.  When you click on Enter the Insider's Experience, you'll be asked to login to Facebook and "Like" the Louis Vuitton Facebook Page in order to get the Insider's content, which begins with another 360 video.

This time you are outside in the Louvre Courtyard again, walking through swaying, black balloons towards the enormous black tent.  You realize almost immediatey that you are being given the actual visitor's expereince upon entering the Fashion Show.  As you enter the shadowy halls, the audio of the show's last minute preparations fill you ears.  You pass through an empy hair and makeup area full of mirrors and the sounds of the dressing room during the show make a sharp contrast.  A label appears in the middle of the screen, unmoved by clicking and dragging.  When moused over, an HD video from behind the scenes in the dressing room begins.  Each of the scenes throughout, have additional content embedded into the 360 video.

This is another brilliant use of 360 video that yellowBird has been employing lately, as a container for a larger media package.  It's a logical layout and one that is intuitive with hotspotting and linkage.

Over all, I think Louis Vuitton will be winning website awards up and down the internets with this online experience and yellowBird is slated to release a number of new client works in coming weeks. 

Can't wait to see what the future holds, but with Kolor announcing the launch of their own 360 degree video player requiring no plugin through WebGL and HTML5-based browsers, yellowBird seems to realize that staying on top is not going to be easy.

Congratulations to all involved on this incredible project!