Delving into the world of VR

Raw VR File

Every once in a while, we are introduced to an idea or technology that seems just a little more than a fad. I certainly believe this of VR or 360 video content that allows people to visually occupy an environment with a phone or VR goggles. To that end, I wanted to get a little taste of how to produce those videos, and so I got my hands on an entry-level camera, the PIXPRO SP360, and tried it out at a pond local to my apartment.

The two cameras are situated back-to-back in this VR rigging

The two cameras are situated back-to-back in this VR rigging

I made at least a feeble attempt to disguise the rigging holding the camera by suspending it over water with my audio boom pole. When a camera shoots in every direction, it's difficult to hide in your shot and I imagine you can only use practical lighting in a movie production environment. By and large my 'fishing rod' technique worked, but you can see the end of the XLR cable hanging above. Seeing as this duel-action camera setup is designed for thrill-seekers and consumer-level enthusiasts, the operation of the cameras is very simple. Basically, you turn on both cameras (situated back to back) and press record. You have limited control over settings. For instance, you can dictate the white balance, some color presets, and stabilization (which I didn't need or try). Definitely not at the level of a GoPro with Pro Tuning functions. It definitely should be mentioned that after only a few minutes of recording, the cameras were really hot. Not 'Oh that's kinda warm' but rather 'Ouch! That's hot!'. It was in the high 70's during shooting and the camera was in the sun for the last shot, but I believe this thermal output wasn't normal. In addition, the way the rig is situated, both camera's USB ports are blocked, preventing someone from bussing power in for indefinite shots. Major limitation. 

After shooting comes - of course - editing!

I used the free software provided with the camera Pixpro 360 Stitch. To say that this program is limited, is an understatement: You can sync the start points of both cameras and futz around with a thing here or there, but there aren't any finer adjustments to stitching or other variables in the free software. You are given the ability to increase and decrease the separation of the cameras, pitch, yaw, roll, and color correct with global brightness and contrast sliders. Every editable item is changed via a button/slider combo that makes a pretty experienced editor such as me feel as awkward as a surgeon wearing oven mitts. When all was said and done, some of the stitching is extremely obvious in the example video below, but ignoring the post processing, the image looks pretty great, especially viewing from a phone or other small device. Some of the charm of the novel, is that the newness can cover over the blemishes.

Overall, this limited foray into VR would be disappointing if under other circumstances, namely anything I'm used to, but creating video content so foreign to what I am used to and have it work - being able to have such a tangible experience - has been awesome and a lot of fun. I can't wait to see how this technology matures and is utilized. I know there are high-end VR rigs that, compared to this little video, trounce the quality and execution, but it is definitely something to wonder at!

The Adventures of Mr Norbert Waggles - Part 3

Norbert and Beatrice Waggles, Son and Mother

Norbert and Beatrice Waggles, Son and Mother

June 18th - Many a pleasant salutation was had when my Mother, Beatrice Waggles, stopped by for a visit. I love my mother very much and to see her again is a luxury that most pups are not afforded. She was definitely older: Her nose pink and a few gray hairs wriggling out of her soft coat, but she definitely smelled as I remember her. My mother inspired me from birth to take up the law as a profession. She herself, was an activist for immunization awareness. Largely retired, she championed that every dog recieve shots on time, but also in the proper doses. The later has yet to come to fruition as dogs in most states are required standardized doses whether you are a little 5-pound fluff ball, or a towering Mastiff. Work that I plan to further within the canine community.

Beatrice and I spoke of our separation and life up North of our stomping grounds in Tennessee. The people, the dogs, the smells . . . She had been living with a family for a long time before being relocated to Boston to live with city people. I have visited the city a few times with my new people, and found it loud, but a generally amiable and hospitable place. The smells! There are so many. Unfortunately, there are not as many squirrels in the city beyond some green zones. Perhaps a common tree squirrel, but we are in search of the Red-bellied, Eastern Gray, and Fox to add to our visual and olfactible experience. She and I definitely did much bonding over our common interest in collecting squirrels and their study. We find it quite humorous that most people believe the squirrel to be a generally harmless and even 'cute' woodland creature. In our eyes, these nut-hoarders are very uncivilized and illogical. Perhaps the equivalent of rat-kind in the human worldview? Not an easy equivocation to make. Nevertheless, Beatrice has found quite a few different examples of the creatures in her life and shared their traits and quirks with me.

By the end of today, my mother will bid her farewells and be off into Boston with her latest people. I will miss her, but she has promised to write and visit again in a few months. Perhaps by that time, I will have found new squirrel life to share.


Baby Goat Day!

It was Baby Goat Day at a Blue Seal location in Derry, New Hampshire. Jess and I got there early to experience and document the fun. We came and went just in time, as hundreds of families descended on the store. Blue Seal had a little of everything having to do with livestock, growing, and dogs. We bought Norbert a new toy octopus and will likely be back to buy some more treats!

Jess and I plan to one day own at least a couple of goat friends and it's always fun to learn more about taking care of them, their behaviors, and more. Of course, we never miss an opportunity to pet these awesome creatures, but this event fell right after Jessica's birthday which made it all the more special. The gift of goat!

Great Dog Rescue of New England - Meet 'n Greet

Photo by Jessica Sinatra

Photo by Jessica Sinatra

The Great Dog Rescue of New England (GDRNE) is a non-profit that has adopted out over 10,000 dogs since its inception over a decade ago. Most of their adorable pups are saved from high-kill shelters or shuttled in from other rescues throughout Tennessee and other southern states. Some have experienced physical or psychological traumas from life as a stray to abuses by their previous owners. Other have simply been surrendered by families who could no longer care for their pet. The volunteers at GDRNE vet each potential family to make sure that every dog will fit into their new home.

This video portrays one of many meet and greets held across New England each year by the organization. GDRNE and several other local rescues congregated in the lobby of Tsongas Arena in Lowell to connect these disadvantaged puppies and adult dogs with new loving families. Many of the dogs in the video still need a home and applications can still be filled out.

To learn more about the Great Dog Rescue of New England, visit their website.