The beauty of 360 video is that you can see everything in that space at that time. You can pan and tilt, zoom and move the image. It’s far different from traditional linea films where the shots are chosen for you in edit. They control or dictate what you see. A timed art that creates pace and mood for the scene. A system that we have all come to know and love.
The 360 video changes all that.
What I noticed is that we tend to be lazy when watching on our phones or laptop, when it comes to our personal movement on 360 video. VR is slightly different because of the head and body movement. So is there room for controlled movement and editing of the video?
Showing you what you should be looking at, at any one time.
Say you’re watching a bike going down a hill with jumps and crowds. 90% of the shot normally is facing forward as that is the most exciting. Seeing the jumps the fast pace and what’s up ahead. So is the 360 video needed if you are only tilting down to see feet and behind the rider 10% of the time?
Maybe editing is still required? Set movements at certain points. When the bike goes over a jump pan down to see the bike in the air. When there are large crowds pan to the right to see them. Have an edited movement embedded into the video, it can still be broken at anytime by your own decisions of movement. But once we have finished controlling the view, it then goes back to the set motion embedded in the scene. Therefore you see the best bits of the video chosen by the person who uploaded it. Normally a professional in their field. This way you don’t miss any good bits and still have full control of the 360 video.
Or does that defeat the purpose of 360 video….?
The future of a cameraman
I am writing this blog after just googling the PIXIO - a ‘robotic’ cameraman. This product was brought to my attention on a Facebook feed some time ago. I scrolled past it, thinking no more of it, until realising that these products are worth a second look.
Basically the ‘robotic cameraman’ is a camera that is mounted on a robotic receiver that can pan and tilt. It follows a small transmitter that anyone can wear. A horse rider or even an surfer. The camera is mounted on a unit that sits on a tripod system. The ‘move and see’ system then receives the signal from the transmitter and the camera follows the movement of the subject. A simple task these days - regardless of whether a drone or a static system performs it. The system keeps focus, it can zoom, and you can remotely record.
This is a good system and definitely has some advantages. For now I think it will be limited to individuals that want to watch footage back of themselves in their preferred sport - filming training, or filming an event.
Online content will lap this up and it will be very popular, as it is a constant feed of video.
In the future I can see whole teams wearing transmitters. Then, on a selected channel you can choose to follow your favourite footballer or Rugby player with numerous robotic cameras around a stadium. It could also be used as a great B camera for cameramen today. This device can get all the footage you need, while you can get the more arty or close up shots. Think slow motion and shots that require movement with sliders and dolly’s.
The only disadvantage I can see at the moment is that there are no cut points on the vision, as the device is following the movement continuously. There is also no creative input at the time of filming - this device captures movement and perhaps risks losing those film worthy moments that only the human eye can see.
Nevertheless there is a place for this camera, even if initial take up will be slow and or threatening to some people. The ‘move and see’ will get better and allow for more options.
This brings me to ask the question - is the cameramans job safe in the future?
There is a huge push for automated and mechanical robots that can take over a lot of jobs. Much like the autonomous car that could rid all taxi drivers of work, and remove the need to even drive yourself. A financial accounts manager is 4th on the list to be taken over by robots on this BBC website, along with many other careers that threaten to be automated. The following website checks if your job is safe, have a look for yourself...
You can also see what other jobs are up for grabs by robots… It may seem a long way off but they are talking of autonomous cars from 2020. We will probably still be shooting 4k in 5 years to put that into perspective.
The beauty of being a cameraman, DOP, assistant, steadicam operator, is that it is creative. The role as a Cameraman doesn’t even get on the BBC’s list, although it is not necessarily a mainstream job to some.
There are lots of tools to make our lives as a cameraman easier and to allow us to get unique shots. There are steadicams, robotic sliders, drones, robotic motion control arms and robotic jibs, as well as post stabilization software that is becoming much better. All of these things are accessories to our eyes and our overall vision. It would be hard I believe for a ‘robot cameraman’ to get in the right position with the right lens, follow movement, focus and exposure. All with no awareness of pressure or foresight.
For sporting matches I think that a robotic camera could be the way forward unfortunately. Football players for example already wear GPS trackers, to monitor how far they run and where they are on the field.
As on demand television becomes more popular, you will be able to have full control. Imagine following the play you want and cutting from a wide to a selected player - all from your living room. This enables you to see the game, how you want to see it and when you want to see it.
As the world becomes more digital and robotic we have to adapt to these changes. They are coming and we have to be prepared for them. I believe that the industry will benefit from technology and mechanical robotics, allowing us to become more creative and giving us more control and more options.
I think the role as a cameraman will always be around. It’s a very manual job which needs a creative eye and edge. Something that a robot is yet to challenge us with for now.
Time will tell - yet, nothing will beat the power of a creative mind, so cameramen, let's use it.
The camera stabilization company that is made up of hardware and software products is live on kickstarter. Stead XP is a French company based out of Grenoble, has surpassed their €150,000 pledge and have a total of €505,621.
Their product is designed to stabilize your camera hand held movements.
They have two stabilization products for purchase. One that fit’s nicely on a Gopro (Later models) and another camera-top blue device that utilises the cold shoe mount of cameras & rigs.. The Stead XP+ works with most DSLR and cinema cameras - but not all.
Computer rendered stabilisation has been around for a long time on programs such as FCP7 and Premiere Pro.
The Stead XP uses the same principles as these programs, taking a wider shot and cropping it to then simply ‘balance’ the horizon with calculated precision.
What the Stead XP has up its sleeve is an accelerometer and gyroscope built into the unit, recording live data of your camera’s movements when you are filming.
The advantage of this?
Every bump and wobble is recorded by the hardware, while you are recording to the camera. This enables the Stead XP to create a 3D space of where the camera is. Using this data and the Stead XP’s algorithms, software builds new camera trajectory, eliminating distortions, vibrations and even rolling shutter.
From the test footage I have seen, it is initially impressive, especially for handheld movements. There is still an air of electronically processed movements. But as the device fits on your camera, it allows you to experiment with unique shots (See SteadXP demo video). You’re not restricted with larger steadycams and Movi’s. Setup time is reduced and the devices is far less bulky.
Although the shots are still not as good as the above steadycams and gimbals, they are still an option for certain situations. Of course if you are time dependant, this is a great option.
The device needs to be calibrated before you start shooting and any change in zoom or focus, then needs to be calibrated again.
When it comes to editing, you also need to bring in a Stead XP file to accompany your media, so they can work together to then stabilize your movements.
There are some limitations to the Stead XP, like using the mini jack (XP+) to send data from the XP to the camera. Therefore, recording audio from your camera is inhibited. A high shutter speed is also required for best results, which makes filming in some environments difficult. As the material is also cropped you will lose some resolution on your shots. That’s something to take into consideration when shooting 1080 HD.
For little over €100 you are getting a good product for the price. It is not suited to everyone or every situation. But then when is a camera these days? It seems great if you’re pushed for time and perhaps budget.
It is not yet as good as the traditional methods of stabilisation, but the most surprising thing for me is that there isn’t more investment in systems like this. With guaranteed updates, it will get better. Both more advanced and smoother. This for me is the future of stabilization. It is quick, easy and it works. It has a short set up time and it is discrete.
It is a useful tool and I have already pledged to the campaign. Looking forward to testing it out soon.