Well the title of this post pretty much says it all. Livestreaming Freeride World Tour competitions in European or North-American ski resorts is a pretty daunting task already. But when the competition is set to happen in Alaska’s backcountry it’s yet another league. The clip belows summarizes the setup and the team behind the live TV production from a tiny mountain ridge out of Haines, Alaska. And I’m the producer lucky enough to work with a team like this one!
Alaska is the 4th stop on the Freeride World Tour and for the FWT crew it presents the biggest challenges. What does that imply to organize a competition in a remote mountain of Alaska? Check it out! #DROPIN #FWT17
After a week spent installing, monitoring, troubleshooting and (also) enjoying their time up there, event day was finally here. As producer and live producer, working from the production tent with a perfectly functional and reliable setup in these conditions is a huge satisfaction. We could deliver a solid show to tens of thousands of freeride fans around the world and enjoy a great contest day. What was achieved on this mountain on that day is pretty special. This team as a whole is special.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the competition because of weather and snow safety, I was also extremely relieved and happy to see the entire crew rewarded by an incredible day of action. This was the best reward we could all hope for, and an achievement we won’t forget anytime soon. Very, very well done everybody.
Here’s a short clip I’m particularly happy to share! What is Freeriding? The objective was to answer this very simple question with a clip that would appeal to a mainstream audience ; I also wanted it to be very inclusive, universal and emotional. An ode to all freeriders, beginners and pros, yound and old!
“As long as you’re having fun, you’re doing it right!”… This sums up pretty well what we think is freeriding! For all the Freeride fans who’ve always failed in explaining their friends/families this great sport that is ours ⬇ #DROPIN #ThisIsFreeride #quattro #quattroroadtrip #Audi
Ever since my first contact with 360 video I always felt that the primary use for this technology would be to take the viewer to places that are usually inaccessible. With my adventure/outdoor background I obviously thought about remote parts of the world, deep canyons or high summits that only the most accomplished experts can reach.
And indeed, my first serious project with 360 video would take me to one of these inaccessible places, but not exactly the kind that I initially had in mind: the operation room !
I first met with Dr Jean-Daniel Rostan a few years ago, after he performed an echography on my knee following a not-so-smooth landing with my hangglider. Little did I know back then that he is one of the most respected and experienced surgeons when it comes to phlebology and venous disease!
He was immediately interested in 360 video and its potential use in healthcare and training. Soon enough the conversation started with the italian-based IALPH (International Academy on Laser in Phlebology) which was seeking new and innovative ways of training surgeons for endovenous laser techniques.
Ultimately it led to the shooting and editing of 12 clips of 2-3 min each, detailing the different steps of endovenous laser treatment for varicose veins, a very common disease that affects up to 40% of the european population. These clips will be part of the training material delivered to surgeons following the IALPH courses.
The benefits of 360 video in healthcare training are considerable. Here are the benefits that Dr Rostan and I identified in 360 video training:
Unlike conventional video, 360 video allows the user to grasp the entirety of the scene and the dynamic of the procedure between the surgeon and the other staff in the OR
It makes it possible for users to have a very good understanding of the procedure and its dynamic BEFORE actually stepping in the OR for real. Having experienced the introductory or peripheral steps of the procedure with the 360 videos, once in the OR users can focus their training on the most specialized aspects that require hands-on operations.
Users can see the same procedure executed on a variety of patients
Users can watch the same scene several times if needed
Each user can focus its attention to the part most relevant to them, either it is the echograph, the laser, the anesthesia…
Training and observation time in the OR is by nature limited and complex to organize due to the small capacity of these rooms. 360 video lifts these limitations.
It is possible to virtually enlarge monitors and scopes (ex: the echograph screen) to better highlight the laser fiber, the needles, and the information provided to the surgeon during each step
This has been a very interesting project for me. The OR is a very different field compared to what I’m used to, but in the end the challenges were pretty much the same as when I’m shooting action sports: I had to adapt to a setting that I couldn’t choose, and I had to “follow the flow”. What I mean by this is that the shooting took place during actual surgery sessions, with a rythm that wouldn’t accomodate a lot of flexbility for the needs of the shooting.
The post-production was done with After Effects, Premiere and the mettle plugins to enlarge and display the echograph screen next to the patient.
Late in 2015 a conversation with Swatch management eventually got them convinced to invest into a 360° Video experience on the Freeride World Tour 2016 – for whom I’ve managed TV and Video production since 2009.
The clip reached 400K views and ranked in Youtube’s France Top 3 for brand use of 360 video experiences (1/ Infiniti Europe 2/ Canal+ 3/ Swatch FWT 360 Insights 4/ Maserati 5/ Samsung Mobile – source: Youtube 360° Ads Leaderboard 2016). Pretty cool to be ranked amongst these big guys.
How did it all start? During my years as a pro-kayaker I spent most of my time visiting some incredible and remote rivers around the world. Despite my best effort I often thought my videos couldn’t really convey the feeling of “being there”.
Fast forward to the present day, and all of a sudden there’s this new cool technology called Virtual Reality and 360° video which takes us closer than ever to this dream of teleportation – in short, being able to see and hear what it’s like to be there (in VR litterature it’s called “presence“).
My interest for Virtual Reality and 360 video goes back to the release of the Oculus Rift DK2 in 2014. After receiving the headset and getting over the initial Wow effect, I immersed myself in this new media, its new storytelling codes and seemingly endless possibilities. I read a lot about it (with articles ranging from video games developer to hollywood thinkers), subscribed to blogs, listened to the excellent “Voices of VR” podcast and tried many, many apps and videos to get my head around what worked – and what didn’t – in this wild wild territory.
Interestingly my first professional project in 360 video didn’t involve remote locations and exotic adventures, but a place few of us will ever experience first-hand nonetheless, if not laying down unconscious on a table : the operation room.
But back to the Swatch 360° Insights. Shooting for the clip took place during the first Freeride World Tour stop of 2016 in Vallnord-Arcalis, Andorra. Besides the obvious adversity of the backcountry terrain, this project was a big challenge for 4 reasons:
We couldn’t know in advance the competition venue and therefore couldn’t scout any location
The storytelling had to be partially adapted to how the event would unfold
The delivery timeline was very tight, with just a few days to have a clip ready before being displayed at the next FWT stop in Chamonix on the Swatch promo truck
The impossibility to mount a 360 rig on a competitor during a run – which anyways I didn’t really want in the clip because of the motion sickness it would induce
The late Estelle Balet is the central character of this clip. Retrospectively I’m very happy we had this opportunity to convey her special relationship to the mountain and to competing before her tragic passing last april. Her softspoken words really bring another dimension to the clip.
For this shoot I decided to use 2 rigs:
The classic 6-gopro rig from freedom 360
A 2-gopro rig with special lenses from Izugar
The audio was recorded on an audiotecnica stereo microphone, plugged into a zoom recorder.
Battery and card management can quickly become an issue in the mountain with subzero temperatures, which clearly favoured the use of the izugar rig. With just 2 cameras it’s much quicker to swap batteries and cards if needed. Also, given the fact that we would have plenty of shots to operate to leave our storytelling options open, and little time in post, we ended up shooting for the most part using the Izugar system. It drastically reduced the media management workload and also potential stitching issues in shots that we could not control 100%.
All-terrain filmer Mathieu Coldebella went out to gather the shots, and after the competition I organised the stitching, graphics and voice-over with Estelle Balet that I wanted in the edit. In post we used Autopano Video pro for the stitching, After effects for the graphics and the Mettle plugins to insert them on the footage. The edit was done on Premiere Pro.
Since it wasn’t possible to capture action upclose due to the nature of the mountain, I instead opted for a sequence using 2D footage spread around the viewer, to give a dizzying and overwhelming effect to the viewer and still bring some action into the clip.
The online version shown above differs slightly from the initial version displayed in Chamonix. The Chamonix version had longer shots and a bit slower pace to really leave time to immerse into each scene through Gear VR headsets. The Youtube version being mostly seen on phones or computers it was shortened and the pace is a bit faster.
Another clip is due to come out in the falls, featuring the four other tour stops after Vallnord (Chamonix, Fieberbrunn, Alaska and Verbier) and some really spectacular shots from these locations.