GoPro Hero 3D + Oculus Rift = Stereoscopic Video VR

I learned about the Oculus Rift last year. My son is an avid gamer and currently enrolled at the University of Texas at Dallas studying to be a game designer. He was telling me about Oculus, and it piqued my interest. Could it be used with video?

After digging a bit deeper, I now believe that video is a very viable application for a Virtual Reality (VR) Headset with lots of amazing potential. There are numerous applications and ways to enjoy visuals stories in the Rift.

Two Different Types of VR Video

There are two very distinct ways to playback video in the VR Headset:

  1. Immersive 3D with Head Tracking
  2. Flat 3D Movie Playback

Immersive 3D Video

This kind of video allows viewers to look around and see the video from whatever perspective they choose. You can look up, down, in front, behind, whatever, and the video plays all around you. Head tracking is required so that you can look around, and the video playback matches your head movement.

The folks at ConditionOne created an Immersive 3D short film called ZeroPoint. And, it’s a good example of immersive 3D. There are a few scenes in the short film that are pseudo immersive, but still demonstrates the concept.

Creating this type of Immersive 3D experience is not easy. Here’s why:

  • Capturing 360 degree video requires a lot of cameras.
  • Capturing 360 degree video in 3D requires a lot of cameras times 2.
  • Each of those cameras have to be stitched together to form the 360 degree viewing area.
  • All the cameras require lots of memory, so you will have GBs of video to edit and work with.
  • Another aspect is camera movement. You have to significantly limit your camera movement with immersive 3D.

I’ve been looking into what it would take to capture 360 degrees of video. One way would be use something like this: 360 Hero 3D holder. Using this holder with 14 GoPro Hero 3 cameras, you can capture 360 degrees of 3D video. But, it’s expensive. First, you have to buy 14 GoPro Hero 3’s ($4,200), then the holder ($1,000) and then the stitching software ($1,000). Add to that the memory cards for the cameras and some hard disk space to hold on the footage. It’s an expensive solution.

The folks at Jaunt have created a one-piece 3D camera specifically designed to capture this kind of video as well.  Here’s a longer article about what they are planning to do with this camera. It’s unclear whether or not they plan to sell their camera or just produce the content.

Flat 3D Movie Playback

This kind of video is more similar to what we have today. A VR Headset simply shows one image to the left eye and another image to the right eye. This is the nature of 3D imaging. For flat movie playback, you simply show the 3D video in VR headset. Looking around has no effect, so head tracking is not required.

Some folks have created a type of hybrid VR video viewing, where you are sitting in a theater and a movie is up on a screen in front of you. Through head tracking, you can look around the theater, but in my opinion, that just seems like a waste of space and technology.

Another reason I believe this flat 3D movie playback will emerge as the dominant VR video type is that we can easily adapt existing 3D movies to simply playback in a VR headset. The medium already exists today.

GoPro 3D and Oculus RiftMy First 3D Movie in Oculus Rift

I wanted to see if I could, from start to finish, create a 3D video to playback in my Oculus Rift DK2. Yesterday, I succeeded. Here’s what I did:

First, I needed a way to capture 3D video. I have lots of camera gear since I own a video production company. But, I didn’t have two cameras that were exactly the same. After some quick research, I found that GoPro made a 3D holder specifically designed to capture 3D video. Perfect!

I only had one GoPro Hero 3+ and needed a second. So, I ordered my second GoPro, and then I ordered the GoPro Dual Hero. The setup is actually really solid. It’s more than just a holder. There is a special cable system that allows you to sync the cameras. It manages the files cleanly, and gives an easy way to start and stop recording.

3D VR SampleI matched the recording setup for each camera (size, field of view, and frame rate need to match). Then, I went around and capture some various shots.

Afterwards, I brought them into GoPro’s editing software and was able to create a simple 3D movie using the side-by-side export option.

Next, I needed a way to view the video in the Rift. I did a quick search to find out if there were any video players that played 3D video in the Rift, and there were a few that I found:

There are probably some more, but I was able to get the Stereoscopic Player to work. And it was amazing! The 3D was quite impressive.

Next Steps

The GoPro 3D setup was very fast to get up and running, all the way from setup, capture, editing to render. Well done, GoPro.

Most of my clients are high-end Fortune 500 companies, so quality is paramount in my productions. While GoPro is good and fast, I really want to up the production value with better cameras. My next step is to get a second Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera with matching lenses, and build a 3D rig for it. The video quality will be far better with some nice shallow depth of field and better color rendering, but it will require a bit more manual editing and mastering.

Overall, I’m impressed with how well this first attempted went. I can see a lot of potential with this type of video.


For the Love of Money

The love of moneyDo you love money? Most, if not all, of my Bible friends will immediately shout, “No! The love of money is the root of all evil,” quoting 1 Timothy 6:10. “So, no, I don’t love money.”

But we deceive ourselves. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would I like a raise, a promotion, a bonus?
  • Would I like my salary to be a bit higher?
  • Would I like to grow my business, double my clients, increase my sales?
  • Would I like to have more money in savings?
  • Are you content right now with what you have, or would you like more money?

If you would like more money right now, listen to what King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 5:10:

Whoever loves money never has money enough;
Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.

Let me simplify this for you: would you like more money right now? If yes, then you love money.

I think most Americans are dissatisfied with what they have. I wrote an article about this undertow of lack that is so pervasive in our culture. We are convinced that we need more stuff. We think excess = success. So, we buy, we collect, we gather more and more stuff, thinking it will be bring us happiness, peace and joy. But, ironically, this craving for more is what is killing our happiness, peace and joy.

It’s even popular in most of our church sermons. “Give to God so he can bless you (with a better job to make more money to buy more stuff).”

I read the following quote this morning from a book called “The Rest of the Gospel”,

It’s easy to live as if we are the center of the universe. We would never say it, or even think it consciously, but we can live as if God is here for us. That has come across in a lot of “Christian” teaching. God is here to bless you. You ought to be rich. You ought to be prosperous. It’s your due to be successful. It’s your due to get ahead. God has to respond to your faith. God has obligated Himself to bless you if you do the right things. All of which means what? You are the center of the universe.

Are you the center of your universe? Are you building your kingdom?

It’s funny how we Americans desire to be rich. It’s funny because if you make more than $40,000 a year, you are wealthier than 99% of the world. Yet, we’d never think that a $40,000 per year salary would make anyone rich. In fact, we’d almost say you’re bordering poverty with that kind of salary.

We think being rich will give us peace and rest. But, it’s backwards. It creates misery, pain, struggles and distress. Here’s what James said in 5:1-3,

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.

The great American lie is simply this: life is better when you have more.

I don’t think it’s evil to have money, or even lots of money. Nor is it evil to make money or grow a business. Scripture does not say, “Money is the root of all evil.” No, it’s the “love of money”. The evil is when we desire more because we think it will bring security, peace, joy and happiness. Ironically, the pursuit of money does exactly the opposite. Read all of 1 Timothy 6:10,

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

This really resonated with me this morning as I was listening to an excellent sermon from Pete Briscoe at Bent Tree Church called “Less is Better.” Everything he says is spot on and so true. It’s so easy to get sucked into this “more” mindset, but as we crave more, we miss out on what we already have today.

Here’s Pete’s sermon:

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

— Jesus in Luke 12:15


Finding Life

If we choose not to find life in a beautifully dependent relationship with our Creator, we must strive to find life in our doing, in how we appear, and in what we can acquire on our own.

These strategies for acquiring life never fully satisfy, even when we are successful at them, and so we have a persistent sense of emptiness and shame that we try to hide.

If part of my strategy for getting life is having others regard my opinions as right, for example, I must conceal all honest doubts that I have.

If part of my strategy is being acknowledged as successful, I must conceal all failures.

Or if part of my strategy is appearing holy, I must conceal all struggles with sin.

The idol from which we strive to get life determines what behaviors we must display and what realities we must conceal.

From “Seeing is Believing” by Greg Boyd


Am I REALLY an Ironman?

Last week on Sunday, after 15 and half hours, I crossed the finished line at the 2014 Arizona Ironman. I heard Mike Reilly, the “voice of Ironman” say, “Russ Pond, you are an Ironman!

Interestingly, I still can’t say to myself, I am an Ironman.

Months before the race, people would often encourage me, “All your training will pay off when you hear those words, ‘You are an Ironman!'” Even during the race, random spectators would encourage me, “You’re almost there. You’re about to hear those words, you are an Ironman!” Then, after the race, the text messages and Facebook posts flooded in, “Russ, you did it. You are an Ironman!”

Finishing the race and hearing those words didn’t affect me like I thought it was supposed to. Sure, I was glad to be finished, but it was just a race. And even now, I still can’t say it. And, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to.

Pain in temporary BadgeAccording to the Ironman organization, I did everything you were supposed to do to finish an Ironman race, and within the allotted 17 hours. By all accounts, I have the right to call myself an “Ironman”.

Here’s what I think is going on. And, it’s a good thing. Maybe even a great thing.

For the past few years, I’ve been really focused on this issue of identity. What defines me? How do we define ourselves?

Most of us define ourselves by what we do:

  • I write. So, I’m an author.
  • I run. So, I’m a runner.
  • I make movies. So, I’m a filmmaker.
  • I started a business. So, I’m an entrepreneur.
  • I do good things. So, I’m a good person.

Those all sound good. But, what about the not-so-good things we do?

  • I eat too much. So, I’m a glutton.
  • I sleep in too much. So, I’m lazy.
  • I can’t hold a job. So, I’m a failure.
  • I sin. So, I’m a sinner.
  • I do bad things. So, I’m a bad person.

The struggle I’ve been trying to overcome the past few years is to not let what I do define who I am.

And, it’s hard! It’s so engrained in our culture, our upbringing and our world system. Sadly, we often define ourselves by what we do, good or bad.

How would you reply if I asked, “Who are you?”
“I’m John Doe.”
Well, not really. That’s just a name someone gave you at birth.

“Who are you?”
“I’m a chef.”
No, that’s just a job you do.

“Who are you?”
“I’m an American.”
No, that’s just the country you were born in.

“Who are you?”
“I’m an Ironman.”
No, that’s just a race you finished.

“Who are you?”
It’s a hard question to answer.
And, I’ve been trying to answer it for a the past few years.

I’m working hard to not define myself by what I do or what I have done. And, I’m working even harder to not define myself by what I haven’t done, or the wrong things I’ve done.

My focus the past few years has been to define myself by what God says about me, and only what he says about me, because He says things like:

  • You’re my child.
  • You’re the apple of my eye.
  • You’re forgiven.
  • You’re righteous.
  • You’re accepted.
  • You’re perfect.
  • You’re mine.

And, the more I push aside the world’s definitions of who I am and focus on God’s definition of who I am, an incredible peace and confidence fill my heart, and I find such joy in knowing who I really am.

While thinking through this article, I remembered a song that wonderfully summarizes this idea of how we define ourselves. It’s called “All He Says I Am” by Cody Carnes with Kari Jobe. (By the way, Cody and Kari got married his weekend! Congrats you two!) So, I spent the weekend putting together a video of this song with the lyrics.

Am I an Ironman? I guess. Maybe. If that’s what you want to call me.

I’d much rather be called a “child of God.”


My First 140.6 at the 2014 Arizona Ironman

This past Sunday, I got to hear those words, “Russ Pond, you are an Ironman!” My one-year journey to finish a full Ironman had come to an end. And what an amazing journey!

I wanted to take some time to document the experience. Now that a few days have past (and the soreness is starting to alleviate), it is fun to look back on that very long but special day.


Arizona Ironman Race BibWe arrived in Tempe the Thursday before the race. I wanted to have a few days to acclimate to the dry, Arizona climate. I was also able to register and pick up all my race material, including my race bib. It was starting to get very real.

My coach also had me start a regimented hydration plan to make sure I was ready for race day: 80 ounces of Gatorade and 20 ounces of water every day. There were a few times I crashed or bonked on my long training days, and it was because of dehydration. So, I had to take special care to make sure I was very hydrated for race. And with the drier air and less humidity in Arizona, hydration was extremely important for race day.

IronmanOn Friday, our friends Heather and Monica arrived, and we picked them up at the airport. We spent some time at Ironman village seeing the sights and experiencing the race weekend festivities. Afterwards, we drove the bike course. This really helped me see what I would be facing on race day.

On Saturday, the day before the race, I had to make sure everything was prepared. I laid out all my gear, race attire, nutrition, everything I needed for the race on Sunday. And, it was a lot of stuff!

You had five bags to use for all your race stuff:

    Arizona Ironman Preparation

  • The green morning bag for clothes and anything you needed to leave behind before the swim.
  • The blue bike gear bag for your helmet, shoes, nutrition, etc.
  • The orange bag for your bike special needs halfway through the ride.
  • The red run gear bag for your shoes, hat, socks, more nutrition, etc.
  • And, the black run special need back for the halfway point.

After I had all my gear bagged up and ready to go, I had to check in my bike, my bike bag and my run bag on Saturday.

Race Morning

Surprisingly, I slept like a baby the night before the race. Most of the time, I toss and turn before a race, but for some reason, I slept about 7 hours. I think it was because I had resolved in my mind that no amount of worry, concern, fretting, fear or doubt could help me on race day, so why bother. I had no lofty goals of finishing fast or under a certain time. I just wanted to finish, and finish uninjured.

Angela and Russ Pond at IronmanWe were up at 4am for my normal routine of coffee and oatmeal. And at 5am, we headed out to the race venue.

That morning, I kept telling myself, “This day will come and go. Enjoy each and every moment as best you can.” Even now as I write this, the race day experience is starting to fade. But, I’m convinced that my attitude to “experience the moment” made a huge difference!

2.4 Mile Swim

Arizona Ironman Swim

As I donned my wetsuit, swim cap and goggles, the sun was just starting to come up. The pros started at 6:45, and the rest of us started at 7am. The start line was about 200 meters from where we got in. We had to swim up to the start line, and then tread water for about 15 minutes.

Arizona Ironman Swim StartInitially, I was a bit concerned about that, but I really liked it. The short swim was an excellent warm up. And then, staying in the water an extra 10 or 15 minutes was an excellent way to get adjusted to the water temperature, since it was a chilly 68 degrees.

My coach told me to get the front so that I wouldn’t have to fight through the slower swimmers. And, to the front I got! To the very front. It was a great position for the start of the race.

The canon went off and we started swimming. It quickly turned into a giant washing machine. It is very common to bump into others on the swim. I got hit and kicked a few times, but nothing too serious. I used my arms to pull myself through the water, but at times, I used my arms to block feet from kicking me.

I immediately swam to the center of the lake so I could hug the buoys. I knew that my swim would be a short, one-hour warm up for a very long day, so I paced myself slower than usual. In training, I had swam this distance faster, but I knew that this event made up less than 10% of my day, so I didn’t want to burn a lot of energy trying to crush the swim.

I finished the swim in 1 hour and 16 minutes. On to transition…

112 Mile Bike

Arizona Ironman Bike

Arizona Ironman BikeI was ready for the bike portion of the race. I felt very confident about the swim and the bike events, because I knew I could finish them pretty quickly. Boy, was I wrong. The bike ride was brutal! I read later that it was the worst wind conditions in the 11 year history of the Arizona Ironman. Winds were 20 to 25 mph with gusts up even higher.

The bike course was three, out-and-back loops. Going out was uphill and into the wind. It was painfully hard. I was only averaging about 11 to 12 mph going out, but about 25 mph coming back. It was exhausting. Add to that some dust storms, tumbleweeds, stray dogs and some dead snakes on the road.

Originally, I thought I could average about 16.5 to 17 mph for the entire bike ride, but only ended up averaging about 14.5 mph. I was hoping to finish the 112 miles in about 6:30 to 6:45, but the bike ride took me 7 hours and 43 minutes. I was exhausted.

On to transition…

26.2 Mile Run

Russ Pond Arizona Ironman Run

AZIM TransitionA few folks had warned me that once I got off the bike, the thought of running a marathon would be overwhelming. But, my experience was quite different. I went right into the run feeling pretty good and strong. Probably because I was so happy to get off the bike and start moving in a different motion.

But, the run did concern me the most. I had never run a marathon before. And, it’s my weakest of my three events. Add to that an ankle surgery and a couple knee surgeries. And, now that I was about an hour longer on the bike, I had to push the run a bit harder than expected to finish before the race cut off time of midnight.

Using a 5:1 Galloway method, I started my run/walk. And surprisingly, I felt really good. I ran the first half of the marathon only 7 minutes slower than my half Ironman pace two years prior. That really surprised me. But, the second loop got really hard, really fast.

Thankfully, Angela, Heather and Monica were there to cheer me on. They were able to see me quite a bit on the run which helped a lot.

Arizona Ironman Cheerleaders russ and angela kiss

On the second 13.1 mile lap, everything started to hurt. My quads and my feet were the worst. I had switched my run/walk ratio to 3:1 (run 3 minutes then walk 1 minute). Every time my Garmin buzzed the reminder “Walk 1 Minute”, I was so happy. Yeah, rest! But, those 60 seconds always seemed to fly by. The next buzz to “Run 3 Minutes” was not so welcomed. But, I would slowly start running again.

Thankfully, my heart rate stayed at a good level. My goal was to keep it below my lactate threshold of 165 bpm. By keeping it below that threshold, my body was able to flush out most of the lactic acid. So, by keeping my heart rate below that, I would be less sore the next day.

I saw Angela, Monica and Heather around mile 23. It was the last time I would see them until the finish. And that 23 mile marker looked great! Angela said, “Only 3 miles left. That’s just a run around the neighborhood.” True. I could this.

Each of those final mile markers were so sweet. Mile 24. Ah, only 2 miles to go. Mile 25. Yes, nearing the end. Then, the final turn into the finish line!

I really surprised myself by finishing my first ever marathon distance at 6 hours and 7 minutes.


“Russ Pond, you are an Ironman!”

Arizona Ironman Finish

It was nice to run through that big blue finishing arch and here your name being called out. My two favorite moments when doing a triathlon are starting and finishing. This was a big finish, a year-long finish, a dream-fulfilled finish.

I quickly found Angela, and warmed up in the medical tent with some blankets and chicken broth. After picking up the gear bags, we headed back to the hotel for some more food. And sleep.

Final Thoughts

My quest for 140.6 had been completed. I did the training. I overcame the mental struggles, and finished the race. It’s a good feeling.

Here are two of my biggest takeaways from this experience:

Overcoming Fear and Doubt

The thought of doing an Ironman scared me. My approach to fear is this — if it scares me, then I have to do it. Do it afraid.

Throughout my training, there were constant fears and doubts all along the way. (Just ask my wife.) I think too many people let these crippling thoughts keep them from achieving great things. Everyone of us has so much potential, and yet we mentally limit ourselves before even one step is taken. Or, even as we start talking those steps, we stumble or stub our toe, and quit. Instead, we should regroup, learn from the stumble and keep walking.

Work the Training, and the Training Works You

With anything in life, it takes hard work. Any mountain that stands in your way can be conquered. But, it starts with one step.

When I started training seriously six months before the race, I had never biked more than 56 miles. I had never run more than 13.1 miles. I had never swam 2.4 miles. All of those distances were new to me. But, my coach built a plan specifically for me, and stuck to the training. I made weekly increments and progress during those six months. Three weeks prior to the race, I now had biked 100 miles, run 15 miles and swam 2.4 miles in training. And, I felt good doing those distances.

I found that when I worked the training, the training worked me. This is true with everything in life. Don’t expect to go do an Ironman without any training. And don’t expect to make a movie, write a book, start a business, whatever you want to do without training and increment steps.

It starts with one step.