Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How to cover a live event with a portable 360-degree camera

The possibilities afforded by limitations

The key to working with limited time and resources is knowing what they are, and using them as a clearly defined starting point.
You know what you have. You know what you want.
You know what you can do. And you know what you want to do.
That way, instead of being caged by your limitations, you can use them to hack your way into new workflows and paradigms.
The path is clear, especially when you are the one who's making it.

Let me explain:

We're gearing up to cover the St. Patrick's Parade in Kingston and Shamrock Run on Sunday with a live feed, using a 360 degree camera, feeding our 360-degree photos and selected 360-degree and virtual reality video clips into a live blog .

The plan also includes feeding the coverage with Tania's ever-popular photos and spot coverage from Brian, to add regular video and photos. They will all be feeding their content via Twitter, so that they can concentrate on their own coverage and not have to worry about tech. I'll be handling the live feed, 360 and VR content, and likely curation of your content on social media and comments in the feed.


I'm skipping my original 360-degree livestream idea, because I can't logistically get it to work on the field if I were to be using hugvr.com — the one method I've found— as it is currently limited to some browsers, capped at 100 viewers and I don't trust an aircard for this, plus it would limit my mobility. So any live video will come via Periscope, because doing a livestream with a fixed setup would also limit my ability to move around.

I've already decided that, at least for the live feed, I'll focus on images and short videos in a mobile experience, because most of you will get it that way. That will likely limit my ability to use Youtube or even embedding VR videos, because I want you to be able to see what we are doing no matter what you are using.


There are some lingering questions concerning coverage. Should I jump onto a float and go down the parade with it, or should I focus more on short static videos? Can both be done? How much of the Shamrock Run should I get in 360 video? What would you like to see?

I don't foresee many Google cardboard users in the audience (I'll have mine, so you can see what we're doing it if you see me on Sunday); so my focus when it comes to the new way of doing content will focus on timely 360-degree video.
I've actually timed it, and it would take me 10 minutes to get a 30-second 360-degree video posted directly to Facebook from a phone. So this limitation informs my ability to focus on other things first.

After the day is over and the green dust has settled. I'm planning cut a longer 360-degree video for VR viewers.

Why am I doing this? I want to bring you there, as close and live as possible, even if you can't physically be at the parade (hello Floridians, I know you're there), and be able to experience and enjoy the event, with an eye of developing coverage workflows for news and other events. Also, it might rain on Sunday, so there's that.

Ok, Mr. Man, but how do you do it?
Glad you asked.

What you need: 
* A 360-degree consumer camera. We have a Ricoh Theta S, which, admittedly, is the lower quality for video, unless your goal is just to optimize for mobile 360-degrees. Then you'll be OK. Tangent: If you don't have a 360-degree camera, you can still do these images. 
* An iPhone or Android and the Ricoh Theat S app to shoot video and images from the phone and the Theta Video + app to crop and post directly to Facebook; and Round.me app for 360 images (you can use Theta's native upload app, but those embeds are scripts, so they won't work everywhere).
* A live blog that will host your content. Paid alternative is Scribblelive for automatic feeds, but you can use or Storify to manually post them or do a hybrid of manual and automatic posts with Rebelmouse. Just make sure that you post everything to Twitter. From there, the ways you can repurpose that content is up to you.
* A tripod. Shaky videos are meh.

How to:
* Set up your live feed in advance of the event. Be it a Scribblelive container or a Twitter widget with your own feed, make sure it's ready to go and embedded in your site. Or that you have someone manually feeds stuff to Storify (you can theoretically do that yourself remotely, but that's too much and you'll miss coverage).
* Basically shoot short videos and photos with the 360 camera, either directly from it or remotely from a smartphone.
* As you move from one scene to another, begin moving images from the 360 camera to the phone.
* Upload the 360 images first. I move them from the Ricoh Theta S into your camera roll and from there, Upload them to Round.me app. If you try to upload video, you'll lock your devices in processing and won't be able to use them.
* Everything you produce should be tweeted out. That's what will get posted. You can polish how the posts are displayed in your live feed later.
* Ideally, find a wifi spot and upload your content that way. All of this will eat at your data plan.
 * Have fun!

What do you think?