A - I Improvement Project Dome

The Brief

Working closely with the team from Igloo Vision, M7 have created a VR experience showcasing the recent works between Aberdeen and Dyce. This is part of the £330m of works on the A - I rail project (Aberdeen to Inverness). The brief was to produce a film which would showcase the improvements made to the route between Aberdeen Station and Dyce. The film would largely consist of aerial footage to give a greater overview of the route and provide a unique perspective for viewers. The film was to be shown to stakeholders and local members of the public in a VR dome provided by Igloo.

Edit and Production

The aerial drone footage was captured over three shoot days. We partnered with the drone team from Plowman Craven who used their Vogel R3D system in combination with our cameras and 360 expertise. Thanks to Plowman Craven's special permissions, we were able to fly over the track in urban areas safely and legally. A bespoke mount was built for the camera to allow safe mounting and ensured no vibrations in the footage.

The ground based scenes were captured in one day, along with additional voiceover material. We worked with project manager Billy McKay for these scenes, who introduces the viewer to the project in the film.

Stitching was carried out by our team in house. We had over 25 minutes worth of stitched footage to stabilise, which meant constant processing and rendering of the data to ensure we met the tight deadline.

Network Rail VR Post Production Stitching 360

Review sessions were held at Igloo's offices to discuss changes whilst viewing the film in the dome. This proved to be extremely valuable and allowed us to fine tune specifics such as sizing of graphics, text and imagery as well as to refine the use of effects and transitions. Motion graphics proved to be a key part of the film. These help to drive forward the key facts and information in an easy to understand, yet engaging and exciting way that wows the audience in the dome.

Delivery

The film was presented to the stakeholders of the A - I scheme at Aberdeen Station on 5th October 2018. Those in attendance included members from Network Rail, Bam Nuttall, local councillors and many more delegates. The film was also unveiled to the general public later that day, enabling a greater understanding of the works. Over 150 people have visited the 360 dome film each day at Aberdeen Station, many watching the film multiple times as they were that impressed.

 

 

The aerial views of Aberdeen gave an excellent overview of the works. It also proved to be a great talking point for many of the attendees who enjoyed the unique view of the city:

Overall the film received great acclaim and proved to be a big success with both the stakeholders and general public. Viewing 360 media within a dome is great way of multiple people sharing the same experience. The M7 team have the experience and technical ability to cater for all types of 360 video production and display formats.

 

 

With ourselves and the vast majority of the professional 360 video industry relying on custom modified GoPro and DSLR rigs to capture their films, we were intrigued upon the announcement of Nokia's venture into the 360 video camera market with their 'OZO'. How could a company who are not the leaders in the mobile phone industry suddenly produce a camera product that would dominate the 360 video camera industry?

Featuring eight 2K sensors, 195° lenses and a stereoscopic compatible design amongst it's main features, the initial specs sounded rather promising. The price tag of $60,000 however, left many questioning whether this could possibly be justified. This has now become very apparent with many professional 360 companies such as ourselves not being able to justify the purchase of this camera when compared to existing rigs.

One of the selling points of the OZO is the ability to monitor the feed live on set, which includes support for HMD's such as the Oculus Rift, giving directors and clients the ability to see a relatively accurate representation of what will be captured. Whilst this is a great feature to have, other rigs such as GoPro's, Blackmagic Micro Cinema cameras and Sony A7S rigs can be hooked up to an external monitor for framing and exposure setting. We also often opt to use a Samsung Gear 360 camera in conjunction with our main rig, capturing footage during the takes and then giving the director the ability to instantly playback footage in the Gear VR headset, further negating the OZO's monitoring advantages.

The versatility of rigging the camera is also very limited due to the size and form factor of the Nokia OZO. Unlike GoPro or Z-Cam rigs that can be rigged almost anywhere in anyway due to their small size, the OZO can not be rigged easily particularly for moving shots such as a drone or gimbal.

Whilst the rig does offer the ability to capture stereoscopic footage, this is limited to the front 240° of the rig, with the back of the rig having a stereo blind spot, meaning it is not a full stereoscopic rig.

Whilst the specs promise Eight 2Kx2K sensors with global shutters and 10 stops of dynamic range, the footage we have seen and worked with has left much to be desired, and verging on unusable for professional shoots. Many other 360 studios have claimed better results using a simple 4 camera GoPro rig, albeit not stereoscopic and this is something we have found ourselves too. The OZO produces an overly contrasty image with crushed blacks and blown highlights with poor roll off, a high level of noise even at the base ISO of 400 and an unpleasant level of moire and artifacting in high detail scenes. The rig lacks versatility in terms of its frame rate, with a maximum of 30fps meaning that slow motion is not an option with this camera and motion lacks smoothness in a VR headset compared to higher frame rates such as 60fps.

In terms of ingesting and stitching the footage, to our surprise we learned that only a high end Mac Pro computer was compatible, leaving us with no way of working with or exporting individual cameras to edit in stitching software such as Kolor Autopano on Macbook Pro or iMac systems, clearly a massive issue especially on set where a Mac Pro system may not be an option. We've also found that rendering times from OZO Creator are far longer than traditional rigs, often more than 6hrs for less than a minute of footage.

The lack of videos available online shot with the Nokia OZO is a clear indicator that 360 creators have realised that this camera is a long way off being a viable tool for professional shoots, and the cost seems way off the mark relative to other rigs of comparable quality. Many professionals within the community have expressed their opinions and negative reviews of the OZO on closed forums and message boards.

The intensive marketing campaigns Nokia has carried out have misled agencies who may have missed the early 360 video boom and are looking for an all in one solution to capture 360 and these agencies simply assume that with a price tag as high as that of the OZO that this must be the best 360 VR camera rig when sadly this simply isn't the case.

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