Telling The Rest of the Story

Capturing, Extracting, Using 360° Content

The heart of the "Rest of the Story" concept is to provide 360° photos and/or video clips that provide the full context around either a traditional still photo or a comment in an article. Primarily, the focus is on a 360° still to provide context for a traditional still. This page presents information on how one can capture 360° content with current, consumer grade, products to support this. It also discusses some of the ways to extract the desired contextual content as well as some of the limitations of these techniques.

Mounting the 360° camera
For the photojournalist, the first need is to have a way to mount a 360° camera above your traditional camera and have it capturing the desired images. We have several related approaches for this. You can mix and match the elements to get a set up with which you are comfortable. The hardware elements for the largest rig should cost under $50 and is made up of the following three items (with links to example products on Amazon for each).
   • Camera Flip External Flash Bracket (Amazon link #1 or link #2)
   • Camera Hot Shoe Mount to Tripod Screw Adapter (Amazon link)
   • Mini Monopod (Amazon link #1 or link #2)

The 360° camera is mounted to the top of the mini monopod, which is attached to the hot-shoe-to-tripod-screw adapter, which is then attached to the flash bracket in which the traditional camera is positioned.
The hot shoe to tripod adapter's purpose is to make it easy to attach and detach the 360° camera from the bracket in the field.

It is also possible to put the mini monopod directly in the camera's hot shoe, but then the journalist would not easily be able to photograph in portrait orientation. Additionally, the mini monopod itself is optional with the trade-off being between getting the 360° camera higher above your head versus having to adjust to the slightly higher center of gravity as you hold your camera.

Capturing 360° content
Once the 360° camera is mounted in a way you like, the next step is to capture the contextual imagery. One option is to start 360° video capture before you are going to be taking photos, and then stop it when you are done. You don't need to turn it off and then back on for each photo (in fact it's better not to) since you will extract the images you want from the video later. Another option available with some cameras (such as the Ricoh Theta S) is to set the camera for interval shooting, and have that taking place while you are photographing by starting the interval shooting before you are going to be taking photos, and then stop it when you are done. Again, you don't need to turn it off and then back on for each photo since you will just use the shots taken closest to to the time of the traditional stills that you select for final use. If the 360° camera has a timer-delayed shooting mode, the photographer can choose to press the shooting button on the 360° camera and then take a photo with their traditional camera, but this requires more constant thought and can break the flow of the traditional photography.

We have designed a prototype app and wiring system that allows a photographer to connect their camera to an Android device via the camera's flash sync port to have a Ricoh Theta S fire just after they take a photo with the traditional camera (contact Evan Golub if you are interested in this). However, in exploratory trials we have found that the constant reliance on wifi and the slight delay that exists before the Theta will fire might only make this marginally better than the 8 second interval approach while increasing the risk of missed shots. If having a photo of the exact moment is the goal, then the video frame extraction technique is the only one that will assure that ability exists during post-production.

Alternative 360° camera mounts
For a reporter in the field who wants to capture 360° contextual imagery for a written story as they go about observing, speaking with people, etc. we have a different set of related approaches. Each of these approaches allows the journalist to wear the 360° camera in some way. The first, and perhaps most unsurprising, is to mount a small 360° camera such as the Nikon KeyMission or Samsung Galaxy Gear 360 on a bicycle helmet. While a 360° camera does not technically need to be mounted level, it can provide for a better outcome if it is. For this reason, it is useful to get a mount that can have its pitch adjusted.

We also explored using hands-free umbrella holders in a novel way. We would note that mounting a Ricoh Theta on a bicycle helmet seemed to get far more attention and odd looks, which is why we mention mounting a small camera specifically. By mounting the 360° camera on a traditional monopod, we were then able to insert the monopod into the umbrella holder. Two examples available to see on Amazon are a back-mounted one and a shoulder-mounted one. This seems to work equally well for large and small 360° cameras. In terms of ease-of-use, there are pros and cons to each of these two umbrella-styled mounts.

Matching 360° content with traditional still photos
Once you have captured the 360° content, the next step is to match each traditional photo that you plan to use with a 360° context photo. If you utilized interval shooting or timer-delayed shooting to capture 360° photos, that is a matter of picking the 360° photo taken closest to the time the traditional photo was taken. If both cameras had their internal clocks carefully set, this can be accomplished by placing the final traditional photo edits in a folder with the 360° photos and sorting by the time taken. If not, it will be a more involved process involving determining the time difference between the two cameras and more manually matching up photos. We have prototyped a desktop application that can simplify this process. If you are interested in accessing this prototype, please contact Evan Golub.

If the photographer was recording a 360° video while shooting their traditional photos, individual frames need to be extracted from that video. Players such as the VLC media player have the ability to pause the video and save a snapshot of that frame as an image file. It is then a matter of identifying the time index within the right video clip where each final traditional photo edit took place. Again, the prototype desktop application mentioned above supports this in several ways if you are interested in a more automated process.

If a 360° video snippet is desired from a full video, rather than capture a single frame at the time the traditional photo was taken, you will want to identify that moment in the video and then watch for several seconds before and after to determine the best start and end points for the snippet. A variety of video tools such as RealNetwork's RealPlayer or Freemake Video Converter can be used for this.

Incorporating 360° content into an article
Finally, the 360° content must be made available to the reader. Our approach has been to have the web page for the article set up so that clicking on a traditional photo (or in some cases text in the article) will bring up the 360° context photo (or video clip).

Testudo in front of McKeldin Library, click for 360 degree context

The example news articles and stories from the FIA Spark Grant period, such as the protests around the inauguration of Donald Trump, President Trump speaking at CPAC 2017, Vice President Pence and Kellyanne Conway speaking at the 44th Annual March for Life, the March for Science, and the Future of Virtual Reality event demonstrated some different looks that a traditional online article or web page might have as it provides unobtrusive access to the augmented 360° contextual content. If you are interested in discussing the HTML, CSS, and Javascript used to accomplish this, please contact Evan Golub.

It is also possible to post the 360° image or video clip on a site such as Facebook or Flickr or YouTube or Vimeo. However, to do so with frames or snippets taken from a 360° video, requires an additional post-processing step to inject the appropriate metadata into the file. For an individual frame to be recognized as a 360° photo, the Exif data of the jpg needs an XMP tag "ProjectionType=equirectangular" to be in there. Some image editing software allows the Exif data to be changed, but there are also standalone tools such as ExifTool by Phil Harvey that can be used. For a video snippet to be recognized as a 360° video, it too would need the appropriate metadata. There are resources online such as a page that Google has up explaining how to inject the required metadata into a video file.

We would notes that practice runs are highly advised before utilizing these techniques in the field at an event, and then back at the office as the article is being published online, but the result of a successful application of them is being able to support telling the rest of the story through 360° augmented content.

This page last modified on Tuesday, 12-Dec-2017 21:29:35 EST.

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