Boulder, Colorado-based Reality Garage has carved out a unique niche within the 360 video market. In short, they primarily produce experiences for corporate clients. They create fixed kiosks that are delivered to museums, trade shows and events.
Bob Ottinger is Reality Garage’s Co-Founder and CEO. “We got into VR filmmaking 4-5 years ago with some very early GoPro camera rigs,” Ottinger says.
In fact, they first connected with an animal conservation organization. They wanted to capture a lion rescue in action via standard video. However, Bob thought bigger. “I thought this would be great to take an outdoor experience and bring that to people in a virtual reality sort of way.” The clients loved it and the rest was history.
Capturing 360 video in the wild
This experience led them to work with a South African animal sanctuary. Their goal was to immerse viewers in a safari. Bob describes the interactive production in exciting terms. “You are on the field in this safari tent and there are windows you can look through and have these different experiences with the various animals,” Bob beams.
A pivotal moment is when the viewer comes face-to-face with a Cape Buffalo. This animal is one of the most dangerous in South Africa. “He comes up and sniffs the camera like he’s sniffing your face. You could never do that in real life. When the rangers saw this they were very impressed.”
Of course, shooting animals in the wild always presents unanticipated challenges. Alex Pilnick is one of the company’s Virtual Reality Producers. He tells us that using the newest technology also presents unique problems. “The hardware and the software just aren’t mature yet. You think you get a good capture and all of the sudden the stitch line is in the wrong place.” He says the key is to truly understand “the limitations of what the hardware and software are and figuring out how we work around those limitations.”
Of course, shooting animals in the wild always presents unanticipated challenges.
Bob chuckles and suggests filmmakers do something very specific. “Get lots of content and spend lots of time going through it.” Then, he gives us an example of a recent challenge they confronted with an aerospace museum. The museum wanted a 360 flight experience. “We’ve got an Insta360 Pro. You can walk around outside of the plane. Its got great stereoscopy but it doesn’t work inside the cockpit at all because it was way too close. So, we take the GoPro fusion inside the cockpit.” However, Bob experienced one slight problem: “once we get up in the air it just shuts down.” It turned out to be a bad unit. They had to return the camera and reschedule the shoot.
Always looking ahead
Currently, Reality Garage is relying mainly on Vuze cameras. “We actually have three Vuze cameras and that’s what we took to Africa. We use their stitching software and we’ve also purchased Mystica for more polished stitching.”
In the 360 market, new tools are being released constantly. Bob is always looking towards their next upgrade. “Probably our next camera will be a kind of higher-end camera. Something that does a little better in low light with bigger format sensors.”
Bob also tells us that Reality Garage is developing their own software to create better interaction. They have introduced their own player for certain viewers like Oculus. Plus, they soon plan to release a unique production app that will be used with 360 headsets.
Producer Alex is encouraged by the future of 360 video. He points out that the price of hardware and software are coming down. Thankfully, this is no longer an obstacle for most producers. He also points out, “As more of the general public get involved, we’ll have better feedback. I think that language will kind of naturally develop as more people are using the hardware.”
Bob thinks the end-users are the key. “Some people love it and they’ll watch and interact for a long time. But some people take the headset off right away and say ‘I don’t get it’.” All in all, Bob thinks this will ultimately drive where the market goes. “It’s a matter of what can we do versus creating a particular experience that people will pick up and understand.”
They are working on “gaze based” interactions so no hand held units are used. It takes users a few moments to understand that if they look at something for a moment, the view changes. “We’ve kind of crafted our own kind of language around this but the questions is, how much will users be able to understand?”
To find out about their latest projects, you can check them out on the web at www.realitygarage.com. Or, if you’re in Boulder, CO you can experience their work in person at the XR Lounge, located at 1320 Pearl St. Just make sure to call ahead for an appointment by dialing 720-598-2888.