Field Stories: CicLAvia in VR

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We took two 360 rigs to document the event that kicks out cars and let’s cyclists takeover downtown LA

Watch the 360 video above or on:

[NOTE: These are best viewed through their apps or desktop browser that supports WebGL]

After getting to know each other, trying VR experiences, and producing the Annenberg VR tour, it was time to turn our focus to the projects we would complete for the semester.

Toward the end of September the class had a pitch day where everyone presented ideas for projects they were interested in. One of the projects that came out of this was a 360 degree video of CicLAvia.

CicLAva is a street festival that was started in 2010 to encourage communities to enjoy their public spaces without cars present.

On October 18th, the most recent CicLAvia, cars were kicked out of downtown Los Angeles and cyclists and pedestrians took over the streets.

Thousands of people swarmed organization calls the “Heart of Los Angeles,” near Downtown Los Angeles landmarks such as Grand Park, Chinatown, MacArthur Park and the Arts District.

The VR journalism class was there on bikes, capturing the event with two GoPro 360 rigs.

Before filming this event, we came up with a plan for this shoot. From the Annenberg Tour project we did earlier in the semester, we knew that the battery life on the cameras would be short. This was something we made sure to keep in mind for this project since we would be in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles for an extended period of time.

To get the most out of our battery life we made sure to have a few external batteries in our kit. For the majority of the day, we biked through CicLAvia with the GoPro HEROS 4s turned off, only turning them on to record a scene.

After recording a scene, we’d shutdown the cameras again and plug them into external batteries while we biked. This worked well for us throughout the day and we were able to maximize our battery life as we filmed along the six-mile route.

“[CicLAvia] really felt like the epitome of what should be filmed in VR. There were tons of bikes all around, but if you just looked over at the freeway, you got a peek at what normal L.A. car traffic looks like,” said Meghan Coyle a print and digital journalism major and one of the USC Annenberg students that is part of the JOVRNALISM team. “I think that scene was perfect for an immersive experience.”

Because this event was all about moving through the city, we wanted to experiment with motion in our filming. To do this, we placed the camera on top of our studier monopod, secured it to on one of our bikes and rode the bike along the route.

These shots didn’t work out.

Due to the quick peddling movement in the shots, it was difficult to stitch the footage together. We weren’t able to solve the problem in time for our deadline and left them out of the final piece.

“I would love to try that experiment again, I know it can be done,” said Nathalia Tavares, a USC Annenberg communications major and crew member involved with the production.

Something else we noticed while filming is the 360 rig set-up we used draws attention, becoming a conversation starter. Throughout the day people continuously walked near the camera for a closer look. While this allowed us to have many fun conversations about VR at the event, during post-production we noticed there were some scenes where people coming so close to the camera created a issue for stitching together the footage.

One takeaway we learned from this is that the more distance there is between the subject and the rig, the better it is for stitching the video.

Because this was our first experience filming VR in an un-controlled environment, we were able to end the day with so much knowledge about the process and recommend tips going forward for what to do in our other class projects.

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On December 8, 2015
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