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!

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.

Merry Christmas


Cuteness + Gingerbread = Delightful Christmas Video High Jinks!

It's that time of the year, so it's time to break out the presents, eggnog, and treats for the family to share. "What should I make" you ask? Well how about some delectable gingerbread cookies! Kailey and Elise present their 'Yummy' video, a parody of the ubiquitous Tasty videos, to show you a great recipé they picked off of Pioneer Woman. Enjoy!


Moving a Tiny House

Photos by Jessica Sinatra

Photos by Jessica Sinatra

It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day in early May when I saw the tiny house for the first time in person. With the exception of a ball hitch and license plate, the trailer, that resembles a pirate's treasure chest on wheels, was ready to roll to its new home on the south shore. Owners Chloe & Brandon had called me in the weeks leading up to the big move to document the epic first journey of their tiny home.

Brandon Tiny House

Much had led up to this day, including the unbelievably harsh winter of '14-'15 and even TV crews from HGTV. All told, Chloe & Brandon spent a year and a half of planning and construction just to be able to get to a point where they could move the house. The house was built on a flat-bed trailer that the couple was able to get on the cheap, disassemble, and build up into its current form. To accommodate the weight, Brandon replaced both axles and bolted the house into the metal frame as well as install a customized light package to connect to the tow vehicle.

The starting location was a residence in NH. A kind couple that Chloe & Brandon met through a Craig's List ad when the searched for places to build. The property and the couple turned out to be godsends for the tiny home's construction as they became fast friends, but it was time to move to a new parcel of land for the finishing touches and so Chloe & Brandon could be closer to their brick-and-mortar home. They often had to commute up to 4 hours a day to get up to NH and the new site, another benefactor off of Craig's List, would be only a 30 minute drive one way.

Truck and Tiny House

Once the Tiny House was ready to roll, Brandon needed to measure the weight of the house to keep the weight of future installations within the limit of the trailer's structural limits. Thankfully, there was a dump with a weigh station very close by the NH starting point. It turned out that the truck they rented to tow the house weighed much more than the house itself, coming in at about 7,500 pounds to the house's 6,600 pounds.

The ride was very smooth as Brandon eased the trailer forward for the first time. He was very hesitant at first, driving exceptionally slow, but the trailer could be towed safely on the highway at around 55 to 60 miles an hour. When he tried to exceed 60, the trailer started to sway and rock. Thankfully, there was no need for any complex maneuvers on the highway.

Chloe Tiny House

When we finally reached the destination after a frantic bathroom pull off and lunch, the next challenge became reaching the final resting place in the woods behind the house. Brandon, quite expertly, backed the trailer through a narrow gate and down a hill and hooked the trailer into its current home between few trees. Careful measurements were made to make sure that the sides and roof could be expanded in that position and once the home was jacked up and stabilized, Chloe and Brandon went to work pulling out the offices on the sides of the tiny house and hoisting the roof. Seeing this process in person in very incredible and dramatic. The house is actually bigger than it appears on TV once folded out and the interior seemed bloom into a beautiful space with a custom chandelier and spots for beds. The cubby for the rabbit was just too cool and the mini appliances were as adorable as they were functional.

Now Chloe & Brandon will set to work installing a rain water collection system, plumbing, electrical, and heat stove as well as several other features that will make the house livable. You can get updates about their work and their other cool projects at their new website.

Of course, here is the resulting video from the move! Enjoy!