Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with TS Pfeffer and Robert McHugh from Pier Pictures, a visual design house focusing on the creative development and execution of music videos, commercials and films. Their organization has quickly become a pioneer in the field of 360-degree video production.
Their latest projects “Crossing Borders” and “97.92” employed 360Heros video gear to shoot music videos in a style most of the world had never seen before. During the interview I was able to get the story behind the making of these projects, what it’s like working with 360-degree technology and some ideas for its future in the music and film industries:
What were your individual roles in the creation of these two projects (Crossing Borders and 97.92)?
On the Crossing Borders project we worked with our friend Ryan Staake of Pomp&Clout, whom we met on our first production gig a few years ago. Ryan directed the video while TS and I produced it in association with our company, Pier Pictures, and Riff Raff Films. TS was also the Director of Photography on the project.
As for 97.92, that video was co-produced and co-directed by Pier Pictures and APLUSFILMZ, and TS and I were also the Directors of Photography. APLUSFILMZ expressed their interest in venturing into 360 so we took what we’d done on the Booka Shade project and worked with them to apply it to hip hop.
What were some of the challenges working with this technology presented?
Once we’d discovered the technology, our biggest challenge was getting something that was affordable, lightweight and easy to obtain. That’s where talking to Mike (Michael Kintner) came into play. From there it was a matter of getting our hands on the device and experimenting with it.
In order to know what we could do in terms of film production, we needed to know what the technology was capable of. So that turned into a lot of trial and error and mental prep work on our part. We had to learn about the product ourselves in order to be able to work with it around other people and explain it when we pitch a project.
Also, we’re so excited about working with the technology that we have to be careful not to over use it and become repetitive in our work. We want to be able to create something new with every project, and that means we can’t shoot everything with it.
What are some of the unique benefits you’ve discovered with 360-degree technology ?
The biggest thing we’ve learned through the creation of these projects is that this device has benefits. If you can wrap your mind around what’s happening you realize the field of view is limitless. We’ve always been curious about how we can acknowledge the life that exists outside of the edges of our camera lens; this technology allows us to capture that life.
What were some of the things you learned from “Crossing Borders” that you were able to take away and apply to the making of “97.92”?
Even though we used the same rig to shoot the two projects they were both very unique. “Crossing Borders” was landscape based whereas “97.92” focused on capturing people on camera.
With “Crossing Borders” we Basically shot the whole thing without being able to look at the clips. The difference with the Flatbush Zombies project was knowing where to put the rig and having an idea as to how the shots would turn out. We had to learn to think about film in a new way in order to direct and shoot these videos. It was almost like learning a new language, being able to think in terms of a 360-degree perspective.
We flew 54 times for the Booka Shade video – 54 shots that had to be put through the camera manager until we could see how our work translated into a final product. With that project, each flight was an experiment and we learned a ton for the Flatbush Zombies shoot. “97.92” wasn’t as much about learning as it was about taking what we’d learned and applying it to take the project where we wanted it to go.
How did the musical artists like working with the technology throughout the two projects?
The artists seem to respond to it very well because you’re showing people something they’ve never seen before. When we pitch the 360-video concept to artists they see the opportunity to create something unique.
The Booka Shade guys were really pleased with how their video turned out. Working with the Flatbush Zombies and Trash Talk was a different experience as they were actually in the shots. We showed them the rig, described how the images would turn out and instructed them in terms of where they needed to stand. The artists needed to know how their movements translate into a 360-degree shot. It’s really important to create a three-way trust triangle between ourselves, the pilot and the artists so everyone understands what’s going on and how to work with each other and the technology.
I know you guys have worked in a variety of mediums and with different camera gear; Why were you drawn to 360-video?
We first got involved with 360-video when we came across some tinyplanet shots from the Beck project (“Hello, Again“) and immediately started to think about the possibilities in terms of our own work. We saw the opportunity to do things no one had done before with music and film.
Where do you see the future of this technology in your industry?
The benefit of having a full 360-degree field of view is being able to take the audience off of their couch and into the scene. This concept can be taken and applied to other industries as well – security work, surveying landscapes, filming stunts – the are a lot of possibilities.
For instance, if you wanted to film a car stunt and weren’t sure which vantage point would be best, you have the option to pick and choose frames after the fact. You can shoot a scene once, capture it from every angle and manipulate it later. This freedom opens up a lot of possibilities in the world of film and movies. We’re also interested in extrapolating the configuration to accommodate different cameras. This would give artists even more freedom and capabilities.
Also, we want to go on record and say that when it gets to that point, we want to be the first guys to take this technology to the moon. The possibilities are literally endless with 360-video and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.
How did you like working with 360Heros in terms of the product, company and the support you received?
Amazing- everything from Mike taking my initial cold call, to walking us through using his equipment and stitching the footage- it was great. Being able to communicate directly with the creator of a piece of technology is rare and it was huge in terms of developing our projects and what we were able to do.
Mike was really open to any questions we had and gets excited about future ideas and applications for his products. His goals for the company and what he’s working on are definitely going in the right direction.
What are some areas in which we can improve or things 360Heros could do better?
One development we’d like to see going forward is helping the Mac software community get into organizing and protecting the footage as easily as it’s accomplished on PCs. We know post-production workflow will continue to get faster, and more streamlined which is something we’re excited about.
The removal of the immediate unknown would also be beneficial. Giving film crews the capability to playback shots right on the rig and know what they’re capturing.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We’d like to thank Michael for sticking his neck out there for us and allowing us to help him show the world what his product is capable of.
The 360Heros team would like to thank TS and Robert for taking the time to talk with us. We’re proud to be working with organizations like Pier Pictures that continue to experiment and push the boundaries of 360-degree technology. When we get around to developing our first lunar rig, you’ll surely be our first call.
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