An Arabian VR Adventure With M7Virtual
It’s always interesting when you see a foreign number pop up on your phone. Furthermore when the conversation opens with “Are you the leading 360 VR Guys?”. So, it was a great pleasure to take a call from a Los Angeles film production company with them continuing to describe a project in the UAE. It turns out that their UK partners had highly recommended ourselves as a team that shoot cool 360 VR videos with lots of complex movement.
The project was in the Emirate of Sharjah right next to Dubai. The purpose of the film was to help their tourism efforts, presenting Sharjah at the World Travel Market 2017 (WTM). After the initial panic and checking availability of kit and personnel, it was booked, and we were on our way.
A team of two camera operators, 3 peli-cases, 2 drones and lots of hand luggage later, we touch down in the Middle East. Met with the client, discussed the shoot and had 3 days to film it.
The project was to feature around the Mleiha Archaeological Centre which blends history, nature and culture in spectacular natural surroundings. As a result the shot list was broken into 5 key components
- The Location
- The Mleiha Centre
- Historic artefacts
- Dune Bashing in Buggy and 4×4
- Sunset camp
The 360 VR Video follows a typical day for a visitor, but the footage was anything but typical. It was M7’s first time in the desert and we were blown away by the colours and light shift.
The first day was to fly on a paraglider above the desert as it gave a calm flight for viewers to see the extent of the Sharjah desert. What we hadn’t allowed for was Fog. Yes think dense thick fog down to 2m visibility as we drove to location at 4am in the morning. Our spirits were being questioned on day one of the shoot. However, we knew the location was slightly elevated and pushed our location team to take us out the paraglider spot. What followed was truly breath taking, as we climbed you could see the desert mountains rising from the low seated fog. This was a photographic dream as even the locals hadn’t seen anything like this.
We strapped our camera to our paraglider guy and off he went……soaring into the sky capturing amazing 360 VR footage. We were excited to see him land and whilst checking footage…. he himself didn’t want to miss this spectacle himself so therefore launched again with his trusty selfie stick and gopro camera for his own portfolio.
The opening shot was nailed and was truly stunning – looking like something you’d expect to grace the cover of National Geographic. Team Spirits were high, and we were so glad we went for the shot as others might have been put off by the fog.
Teleport yourself to the Desert in 360 VR
The Mleiha centre itself is interesting with lots of little nuggets to film, we opted for skeleton relics using our slider. Light was dark in the centre as they concentrate on the display boards. We opted to move the camera again but as it was a close space the slider would be the best option and armed with our trust Zcam rig. The Z-cam having a larger MFT sensor is ideal for lowlight situations whilst also having smaller parallax issues in post.
Time to break out the drones. Permissions were signed off and we were good to fly in Sharjah desert. We used the inspire 2, mainly as it much easier to travel. Considering the airline restrictions to Lipo batteries on flights etc these days. It is also a stable rig with smooth flight. We always find that dropping a couple of drone shots just adds to the story and location setting.
The Next shots were the fun ones, capturing 360 dune bashing in Polaris Buggies and 4×4 trucks. Rigging cameras is always a fun discussion. Do we go for the action, or more of a user’s viewpoint. On the Polaris the socket set came out and we removed the roof, us both user and action views. We rigged the Kandao Obsidian R for this shot, mainly due to the huge overlap of lens and good dynamic range of image. Rigging 360 VR also needs careful consideration. Resulting in that anything you put in shot will need to be removed in post.
We then finally we had under 2 weeks to complete the offline and neat stitch for the client.
The resulting 360 VR experience is 2 minutes in length and really does teleport you to Sharjah Desert in an immersive video experience.