Discovering new perspectives in the 360 Classroom #ricoh360
Trying to move up from merely converting data formats

Hands-on #Ricoh360

Ricoh Theta S in da House

MY WORLD COLLIDED with the Ricoh Theta S camera and I can feel that using it will take me into an exciting equirectangular realm full of surprise nadirs.

The handiest feature of the Ricoh Theta S is knowing both Facebook and Google understand its image formats. This means 9yo Mia could simply tap the screen of my Sony Xperia Z5 and record the video below. I brought the clip onto the Surface Pro 4, used Ricoh's free software to inject the meta data that told the server it was a spherical video clip and then uploaded it to YouTube (very fast upload) [1] and to Facebook (where it uploaded slower). I recorded at 1920 x 960 in 30 frames per second and that used two megabytes per second of recording.

I first noticed equirectangular video clips on Flickr in 2010 and back then, a lot of post-production was needed to tweak the clips to smooth out the edges of the fisheye perspective. The two lenses on the Ricoh Theta S does that in firmware, dramatically reducing the time it takes to share a panoramic image or video.

When I transfer images snapped by the Ricoh Theta S to my Sony Xperia Z5 phone, I can upload 360 snaps directly from the phone's image library to Google Maps. Although the images normally do not require additional work, I normally add a caption to them. I don't have a captioning capability when uploading via the iPhone 5C inside the Google Maps app.

Snags with the Theta S camera

I wish I could see the remaining battery level on the camera without using the Theta app on my phone.

I know I will lose the USB-C cable that came inside the Ricoh Theta S box because when creative multimedia students borrow the phone, they may return it with a less-capable cable and then I will encounter problems charging the camera.

I need a better mini tripod. The puny Edirol tripod that has served me since 2007 will not stabilise the top-heavy Ricoh Theta S in the field and I already have a scratch on the lens to show what happens when a five knot breeze hits the back of the top-heavy camera. I'm considering spending one hundred euro to get a lightweight Sirui 3T-35R mini tripod [2] from Amazon UK.

I needed a Selfie Stick so I bought a collapsible one from Argos for ten euro.

Pre-production and post-production considerations with 360 shots

I need to start thinking much more about storyboarding in a 360 degree environment. I've already seen problems with capturing content that should remain out of shot. I'm thinking about making short video clips of young people baking and playing chess. It's important that parents approve of the content being recorded and shared.

I've started watching clips on YouTube about overlaying the front and back video segments during part of a recording to better direct audience attention in a segment. This requires Adobe Premiere Pro. Besides making the videos more compelling, a whole new realm of audio specification needs to be considered to ensure proper left/right channel separation when using foley artistry in post-production.

We're looking at surprise nadir content (the objects placed at the base of the camera) and have already produced a few things that might entertain people this Halloween.

What's Ahead

The biggest learning curve for me concerns collaborative workflow with the Ricoh Theta S. We will have up to 40 students producing content they will share inside a campus OneDrive folder. They will also produce very small title sequences that need to fit in parts of the finished video clips. 

And I want to figure out if it's possible to edit and render video content from the Ricoh Theta S with Camtasia Studio. Given that possiblity, the little device suddenly becomes a true imperative for educators (but I doubt Camtasia Studio can handle this sort of post-production).

1. See our first 360 video clip at https://youtu.be/8ZTnttPSPL0

2. See Mark Banas' review of the Sirui 3T-35R on DP Reviews.

3. FB 360 Meta Data Tips

4. I'm saving many of my 360 images as part of a Flickr album.

+++ Bernie Goldbach teaches creative media for business at the Limerick Institute of Technology.

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