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.


Camera Shootout: BMCC, Canon 5D and Canon C300

Recently, I was asked to do a quick, no-budget shoot for a client. It was a pilot piece, so he didn’t want to spend any money, but see if we could deliver a good, quality product. I love a good challenge.

We needed to shoot a multi-camera setup for a band playing a song in a darkened setting. And, I only had access to my three cameras — my new Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, my Canon 5D Mark iii and my high-end Canon C300.

The challenge was how to match these three, very different cameras. I knew the two Canon’s could be matched relatively closely, but the BMPCC was a bit different. It didn’t have a Canon EOD picture style. Yes, it has a raw option, but even then, that would require a substantial amount of post work to match it to the Canon styles.


One of my DPs was telling me about a new plug in called FilmConvert. He was telling me about how it takes digital video and makes it look like film. While I thought that was interesting, I knew there were tons of plug ins and post production tools that could do that. So what.

But, I downloaded the plug in and thought I would try it out. Here’s what he didn’t tell me. This powerful plug-in was actually designed to work with specific cameras and their visual settings to setup a baseline for the film conversion. In other words, before it converts the digital image to film, it takes the camera and its setting, and starts from a common look. That was very interesting!

In theory, that means I could shoot with any camera and make sure I used a setting supported by FilmConvert, and then I could match all the looks even across different cameras.

The Camera Test

Time to test it. I had about 20 minutes that Saturday morning before the shoot to see if I could match three different cameras. So, I started by setting up each camera based on what was supported in FilmConvert. I first set the white balance to match each of the three cameras. Then, I set the ISO to 200 for each one as well since I was shooting outside. Then, using the BMPCC EF Metabones Speed Booster adaptor, I was able to shoot all three cameras with a Canon EF 50mm f1.4 lens.

The one thing I had to do was make sure each of the cameras were setup to capture the image in a way that FilmConvert could use as a baseline. For the BMPCC, I shot ProRez in Film mode. For the Canon C300, I shot using the Canon Log mode. The Canon 5D was a bit more challenging, since it didn’t have a film setting. So, I downloaded a couple “filmic” picture styles, and ended up using the Marvels DSLR film picture style, which was supported in FilmConvert.

The Comparison

Below is the short video test I shot with the three cameras, and using FilmConvert to try and match the cameras.

  • CAM A is the Canon 5D
  • CAM B is the BMPCC
  • CAM C is the C300

You’ll notice that the BMPCC is slightly over exposed. That’s because the speed booster really boosted the light, and I didn’t adjust accordingly. But, overall, I was completely amazed at how closely I was able to match these three cameras. Very impressed with FilmConvert.


Love this video! The power of storytelling, and the tools we use to do so.


New eBook: From Dream to Distribution

From Dream to Distribution eBookI’m excited to announce the release of my new eBook, From Dream to Distribution: A Filmmaker’s Journey!

In early 2006, I decided to chase my dream to make a full-length, feature film. It started with just an idea fueled with some passion (and hazelnut lattes).

I wanted to capture all aspects of this process like scripting, planning, financing, legal documents, casting, crewing up, distribution and the web. One of the key topics I focus on throughout the book is how to position your film for successful distribution, and what steps you can take to get your film sold.

At the conclusion of the book, I breakdown a list of the things I did right, but also the things I did wrong. And, what I will do for future productions to avoid the previous mistakes. I also include an update to our latest film, Infiltrators.

Here are some of the chapters from the book:

  • What Story to Tell
  • Development
  • Financing your Film
  • Cast and Crew
  • Getting Ready for Production
  • The Shoot
  • Editing
  • Post-Production Next Steps
  • Distribution
  • Leveraging the Web

This is the book’s synopsis:

Join producer and director, Russ Pond, as he chronicles his filmmaking journey while making his first feature film, FISSURE. Learn about the many aspects of developing, producing and distributing a film in today’s entertainment landscape, including traditional paths for distribution like DVD, theatrical, television, VoD and streaming, as well as, new web-based opportunities for marketing and online distribution.

As part of the purchase of this eBook, I’m also including a free online viewing of the movie, Fissure. Details are in the book.

From Dream to Distribution can be purchased at one of the following locations: