(Nick Bicanic is a VR/AR director and founder of RVLVR Labs, a 360 production company. His extensive 360 technical workflow for the “Cupid” project can be found on his blog here. In addition, his general 360 setup and guide - including Teradek Sphere - can be found in our previous blog post here).
As 360/VR video continues to search for a place in the commercial and cinema world, Nick Bicanic is developing new and innovative ways to deliver the new media form to intrigued 360 audiences. A major part of his production strategy involves the Teradek Sphere, which allows for live 360 monitoring and stitching wirelessly from an iPad Pro.
We recently did a Q&A session with him regarding his “Cupid” production and the 360 workflow used to produce it. Check it out:
Can you tell us a bit about the "Cupid" project?
Cupid is a short action film designed as an introductory/teaser episode of a longer series - it tells a story of Alex, a modern day Cupid - who uses a 9mm semiautomatic pistol instead of a bow and arrow.
Here's the synopsis:
"The year is 2025. A not too distant future where Bumble/Tinder/Raya have automated 'intimacy on demand.' Sex is temporary and unhappiness is rampant.
Alex is a modern day cupid, a singular operative who joined a mysterious global organization with the goals of helping the world rediscover romance. She works fast and she works alone until one day, her bosses throw her a partner named Theo. He’s a bad communicator, a fast driver and frenetically impulsive.
Worst of all, in her eyes, he’s open to falling in love himself and that threatens to undermine everything she’s ever worked for. As she realizes their connection is real, she starts to question the true interests of the very organization they work for and the meaning of their jobs."
It was shot entirely on a Z CAM S1 camera. Monitored (continuously) with a Teradek Sphere and an iPad Pro (and sometimes wirelessly transmitted via a Paralinx Arrow to video village).
Sound was a mix of lavalier mics on talent and a Sennheiser Ambeo for Ambisonic capture - into a zoom F8.
Hard drives were all Lacie Ruggeds
Stitched on Wonderstitch / Mistika VR
Edited on Adobe Premiere
Roto by Mocha VR, After Effects, Mettle
What role did you play on the project?
Director / Producer / Editor / VR Post supervisor.
What made you decide to go with 360 video as opposed to a traditional production?
It was produced in 360 because I wanted to push the limits on what was possible with dynamic camera movement and fast-cut narrative action. I'm fascinated by the possibilities of frameless media in general (I call 360/VR/AR/MR/XR [whatever R you feel like using] frameless media because I think that word best describes the key differentiator).
Some people use the term immersive. I don't like it - because a good book can be immersive also.
Anyway, I’ve been sorely disappointed with what many people have made in scripted narrative in 360 video – and it’s my favorite kind of passive entertainment to consume. So I thought I’d bend some rules, perhaps teach people a few lessons - inspire them to try new things, and learn something myself along the way.
What was the primary challenge of this project (that required the use of iPad wireless monitoring)?
As with most 360 video projects - to minimize the post cleanup - you usually have to clear the set as much as possible. But whether you do or don't clear the set - you need a way of directing talent.
The Teradek Sphere is still the only reliable way of directing talent - because you can see a high-quality, real-time preview of what the camera is seeing in 360.
In other words, without a Teradek Sphere, a director cannot do their primary job: directing.
It's theoretically possible to preview 360 cameras by putting another lower quality streamable camera on top (e.g. a Gear 360) - or by streaming directly from the camera that is doing the shooting.
This might be acceptable in a documentary/landscape context - where you are mostly setting broad composition and exposure - and then hoping nature cooperates.
But in a scripted narrative context - you MUST see emotional subtlety. Otherwise you cannot guide the actors at all - basically you cannot direct without a high resolution stitched video preview.
And the only wireless way to get high resolution stitched preview on a 360 set - is the Teradek Sphere.
What do you love about the ZCAM S1?
I actually use the ZCAM S1 Pro.
For the S1 - the answer is simple.
It's a reliable operator - never overheats and the quality is solid.
The workflow allows me to run it on batteries all day - and then paired with the Sphere I can get high quality recording and preview.
To be clear the S1 is an entry level professional camera. For truly great results, the S1 Pro is the answer (much better, sharper lenses and a larger, more light-sensitive sensor). But at its price point - the S1 is impossible to beat for quality.
How do you think 360 video industry will develop in the coming years?
I think it has a lot more legs than people give it credit for. Frameless entertainment that requires significant user agency (e.g. 6DOF video or photogrammetry environments for user walkthroughs) is orders of magnitude more complicated to create than 360 video. And frankly - more stressful and attention-hogging to consume.
I think 360 video is the gateway drug for all forms of frameless media - however I do not think that anything beyond mobile devices will truly catch on for VR/AR/MR/360 until headsets become obsolete (e.g. they are so small they fit in contact lenses).
I think anyone who bases their business on creating content for headsets only can only survive on venture capital money alone. There's no business there - because there will never be a market. Even though it's an important evolutionary step - no one wants to wear headsets.
So - the only MASS market for the next 0-3 years - is 360 video on mobile devices.