Unmasking Lucha Libre in VR

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Mexico’s most iconic Lucha Libre luchadores bring the popular sport to Los Angeles

Watch the 360 video above or on:

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

Fighters in colorful masks slam each other onto the floor, which is just a few inches of padding over wooden planks. We could hear the planks buckle under the weight. The crowd cheered, and the fighters got back up and continued to taunt each other. It was a combination of English, Spanish, and that universal language of laughter and amusement, that we hoped to bring our lucha libre VR experience.

Lucha libre refers to a form of professional wrestling that originates in Mexico. The wrestlers, known as luchadors, fly around the ring with incredibly acrobatic maneuvers, all while donned in vibrant masks. These masks signify a competitor’s pride and identity.

And we thought this style of event would be a great candidate for immersive, 360 storytelling.

We filmed an East L.A. lucha libre match that was organized by Fuerza Mexicana De Lucha Libre, which puts on shows around the nation.

Our goal was to capture lucha libre action in VR to introduce more people to the sport. To give it some context, we also wanted to interview veteran luchadors, current luchadors, and devoted fans.



Unfortunately, during our shoot some of our cameras were switched to photo mode during production; as a result, a few of our cameras ended up taking still images instead of recording footage. And this happened to occur when our rig was a few feet away from the ring so we totally missed out on action shots.

This really hurt our story, but is a reminder to always check your camera settings.

The majority of the footage that we had left was from the crowd’s perspective so it was a bit hard to see what was happening in the ring, again stressing the importance of having ample time to prepare.

For stitching purposes, our team used Autopano Video and Autopano Giga. One of the most difficult aspects of stitching was attempting to mitigate all the parallax issues that occurred when people got too close to the camera.

Even though we placed the rig approximately seven feet away from most people, there were a few curious individuals who decided to come up and take a closer look. There were also many people walking around and just happened to walk too close to the camera.

As a result, some people would get distorted as they walked from one camera’s field of view to the next camera’s. While Autopano Giga offers masks to extend or restrict a camera’s field of view to address parallax issues, some of the people simply walked too close to the rig and the distortion from the fisheye lens made it impossible to fix.

Despite these issues, there was around 2-3 minutes of footage where no one walked close enough to cause some serious distortion, so we ended up using these as the final stitches.


Lessons Learned

Some of the best practices we learned along the way include using the “Preview” mode when masking with Giga. This helps you see each camera’s field of view, making it easier to extend or retract when masking.

We’ve concluded that it’s better to use Giga’s “keeping tool” Mask_add rather than the “removing tool” Mask_removeduring the masking process since the remove tool, from our experience, was more random and difficult to control.

In Video Pro, using multiple states is key to stitching scenes with movement in them. That way, you can change the masking in between scenes as different people move in and out of the shot.

Incorporating text into our VR piece was probably one of the more difficult things to do, for technical and editorial reasons.

Technically speaking, it’s always tricky deciding how big to make the font. We ended up exporting at least five versions just to see the curvature and the composition. We eventually decided on 30-pt font in Adobe After Effects.

In the composition, the text ended up taking only one-tenth of the frame, where as our first version had the text taking up one-third of it and wrapping around. This proved too tedious to watch for viewers.

Anything in between that huge value and 30 points is just awkward because we found, during usability testing, that users would jerk their head side to side to read the text as opposed to just holding their head still or turning all the way around to read text.

Editorially speaking, text was a vital part of the VR piece. Because we didn’t have a voiceover and because most of our interviews were in Spanish, the text told a large part of the story.

We found that it’s still a challenge to get people to read the text simply because they’re too busy looking around. It worked out for us because some of our shots didn’t have a lot going on and they needed to read it to understand the Spanish, but in general, people don’t seem patient enough to read text in VR pieces.

One of the key takeaways from the project, was the importance of adaptiveness and preparation. Of all the class projects, the Lucha VR project was one of the few situations where we could scope out the location before we started shooting. This was incredibly helpful because we were able to encounter and solve certain issues ahead of time.

For example, the lighting was pretty limited, so we knew that would be a challenge and we planned some well-lit areas to put the cameras. We were also able to locate all the available power outlets beforehand, so we could constantly charge and swap our camera batteries during the shoot. The pre-planning helped us be very efficient on the day of the shoot.

But no matter how much pre-planning, one incorrect camera setting can hurt your project. That said, we’re pretty proud of the piece that we were able to produce.

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On December 9, 2015
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