Videos in 360º Stereoscopic VR Video

My Dallas video production company, Top Pup Media, had an opportunity last summer to capture some 360º VR video for the reggae band, Rebelution. We captured a few songs in Virtual Reality video and started the process of stitching, color grading and editing.

Here’s a couple of the videos for you to check out. For the YouTube video, you’ll need to use a Chrome browser to view in 360º. You can also open the YouTube link on your smartphone to view it while moving your phone around.


Note: You need to watch this in a Chrome browser to experience 360º movement.
Go to YouTube Version


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.

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.”