The Future is Now, OR Shooting in Triple Digits with the Samsung Gear 360

Hopefully I got your attention with a catchy headline!

Hello Medium! My husband (VR DP Eric Hann) and I run a creative and production services company called Hann Productions — trademark pending. We’ve been working on various VR projects for the past 16 months, and figured it was time to let the internets in on our fun.

We’ve done a number of documentary style shoots in VR, and are developing some narrative stories. Eric tells me that I’m “better at that writing thing” than he is, so here I be, ready to drop some of our collective knowledge and perspective on storytelling and production.

We purchased two Samsung Gear 360s from Korea. Prime Gadget for the win! I’m not sure when the US will have them, but we couldn’t wait as we had booked a job filming a performance — more on that in another post. I would have loved to support my local Best Buy; I can’t tell you how many times I searched the site since April, when it had been rumored the 360s would be available. But technology waits for no woman or man, so we shelled out extra for expedited shipping so that you didn’t have to!

Here are a few observations in using the technology during our tech scout. We had the great fortune of showing up to the location at the same time that we’d be filming the following day, so we were able to see the exact lighting conditions, which made my VR DP husband very happy.

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First, the (somewhat) technical stuff.

  1. A Samsung Gear 360 Camera is awesome.

Because it looks like Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc:

Mike Wazowski / Camera A / the offspring of HAL 9000

Its about the size of large tangerine, or a small orange, depending the perception of the person who is looking at it. It can be operated with a record button that’s on the top of the camera, or via select Samsung Smart phones (galaxy s7, galaxy s7 edge) where it will stream a wireless feed so you can view it LIVE. Sometime this feed drops if you get too far away from the camera. We haven’t done an accurate measurement, but we’ll get around to it. (My guess is a 30 foot distance from the camera is pushing it).

2. A Samsung Gear 360 Camera will overheat in 105 degree weather.

But I overheat in 105 degrees, so I can’t fault the camera in doing the same. We got up to about 11 minute run time before the display read “SHUT OFF COOL DOWN” or something spooky to that affect (its a tiny display). It took about two minutes for it to boot back up again. (We waited three minutes to boot it back up on another attempt, and it booted up just fine, but after a one minute attempt, the display remained as black as coal). We took out the battery, and used a puffer to blow into the housing. Not sure if this helped, but couldn’t hurt as we didn’t have any dry ice or cooling implements on hand.

In more temperate weather conditions, we’ve run a take on the camera to about 32 minutes, no problem.

3. A Samsung Gear 360 Camera is inconspicuous

Nobody, and I mean nobody, bothered us while we were running our tests. Granted, we were on a stage in a public park in California where everyone was minding their own business. We acted like we belonged there, which is 95% of filmmaking, in my experience.

Here’s a picture of Eric explaining perspective warping:

VR DP Eric Hann and VR Guru Michael Butterfield

We’ll do a separate post on the results from this hot day tech scout.

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Second, a little about us:

Eric likes coffee. He’s a director of photography who speaks fluent nerd, having a background in animation and visual effects. I fully plan on exploiting his technical knowledge for your benefit.

Alexa (that’s me!) likes coffee too. I’m more of a medium nerd who writes and directs with a background in production.

We met in film school back in the early aughts, married in 2005, and have been collaborating in work and life ever since.

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I have so much respect for the filmmakers and creators who have been documenting and sharing their work diligently IN ADDITION to ACTUALLY creating their work. I’ve learned so much from those who have shared the work and their creative process. Let me be frank: I’m terrible at contributing on social media. Thus posts like these are my attempt to share our storytelling and technical process for shooting virtual reality. Perhaps some of our live action, or shall I say traditional, work will show up here as well. I hope that what we share can encourage others to tell their own stories.

I currently have a Twitter and an Instagram. Eric FINALLY got an Instagram! He’s an excellent photographer and live action DP, among his VR DP’ing. He posts on 500px if you’d like to take a gander at his landscape panoramas.

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We care deeply about telling thoughtful and interesting stories, and we see virtual reality as a medium to accomplish that goal. I hope it will be fun, informative, and inspiring for you, dear reader, to see our process.

filmmaker + photographer + writer

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