Custom Camera Rig Turns Aspen Into Ethereal VR Wonderland
September 21, 2017

Custom Camera Rig Turns Aspen Into Ethereal VR Wonderland

The increasingly popular VR trend in the industry inspired Rocket Film’s Sam O’Hare to create a rig that didn’t compromise on quality but also didn’t break the bank. The director says, “I wanted a rig that was compact and easily portable, but still allowed manual control and high quality video and still capabilities. Of all the rigs and camera systems on the market I looked at, none fit the bill, so I decided to design my own.” O’Hare in turn worked in 3ds Max to design and model a 360 camera rig and 3D printed it in his office for maximum quality control.
The rig was designed to hold 6 Sony A6300 cameras – 5 on the sides and 1 to shoot straight up. Using 8mm fisheye lenses, he was able to stitch and export 8K footage. He took the rig on the road to Aspen, Colorado, where he worked with fellow director Klaus Obermeyer to capture time-lapse footage during the peak of the fall season. Being a local, Obermeyer’s inside knowledge was invaluable as he was able to get to the best locations that really demonstrated the essence of Aspen’s beauty.

After shooting for about a week, both overnight and daytime shoots, the footage was brought back to VFX studio Parachute in NYC to be stitched, color corrected and edited together. Parachute is owned and run by Sam O’Hare, who supervises and oversees every project in-house. Working with seasoned VFX artists such as Anthony Jones and Erik Rasmussen, Parachute’s workflow utilizes the latest in the industry to create stitches that are close to seamless and don’t lose quality and resolution.

Once the picture was finalized it was passed on to Joe O’Connell and Owen Shearer at Sonic Union, where they developed the piece’s sound design. “The ethereal quality of the footage leant itself to a beautiful, fantastical soundscape that took queues from visual elements like passing planes, the moon and water and placed them spatially inside the sphere of audio. The visuals are so interesting and complex that we felt natural ambiences alone would not do them justice,” O’Connell explains. “Owen and I decided to experiment with more stylized, musical soundscapes that included elements of wind, water and other sounds of of nature. Once we had the right combination of sounds for each scene, we adjusted the tracking of the layers to optimize the spatialization. As a result, we were able to highlight a lot of the subtle details in the various scenes that might otherwise go unnoticed and really take advantage of the immersive capabilities of the VR experience.”

This entire project was a great collaboration with talented directors and artists who were able to bring Aspen’s beauty to life through VR. “It’s amazing to capture views that you aren’t able to see in real life,” O’Hare adds. “Being able to watch the moon and Milky Way glow and wheel overhead in a way you can never see with the naked eye is like seeing a different world.”