Virtual Reality Journalism on the cusp of mainstream adoption?

VR the champions: behind the scenes of creating a virtual reality concert with legendary rock band Queen

This week VR Film Director and 360 stereographer Jannicke Mikkelsen was named one of Norway’s 50 most influental women i tech. I was privileged to hear her give a talk a few months back on producing Queen & Adam Lambert's #VRthechampions.

The full version of British rock band Queen's first concert film in VR, shot in front of an audience of 15,000 fans live in Barcelona in May 2016, will be shown in its entirety at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2017 (following a limited world premier at the Tribeca Virtual Reality Arcade at Westfield World Trade Center in November).

But I was privileged to get an introduction to the amazing immersive concert experience when Mikkelsen, the film’s producer, gave a talk on this during a meeting about VR, 360video and journalism/storytelling recently. The meeting was organised by the The Norwegian Online News Association (NONA), more headlines from the meeting here.

Basically, the production required inventing many of the key tools of production from scratch as well as extensive planning.

For the purpose of filming the concert in 3D, Mikkelsen's team created an inventive construction of lots of small Go Pro-cameras.

JannickeMikkelsenVRthechampions

“The problem with Go Pro is that each Go Pro acts like a little computer, and it is very hard coordinate a lot of Go Pros simultaneously. So we added Raspberry Pies,” said her dad in an add-on to her presentation, as his IT-company also was involved in the production - which additionally required Mikkelsen’s team to write a new software to make the whole production setup work.

The result is absolutely astounding, and is a new success for Mikkelsen, an accomplished VR director and 360 stereographer whom Cameraimage has described as “at the cutting edge of entertainment exploration”

On her homepage, the VR-film is introduced in the following way:

“VR The Champions is the title of QUEEN + Adam Lambert’s first live-concert film in virtual reality. This unique VR film gives the viewer a concert experience like no other. The film offers everything from front row access to the ultimate on-stage experience together with the band. Captured in flying 3D-360 the viewer is taken on a unforgettable journey hovering above the audience and flying along side Queen guitarist Brian May, Queen drummer Roger Taylor, and lead singer Adam Lambert, performing on the grand stage of Barcelona’s Palau St. Jordi.”

As it happens, Queen guitarist Brian May is also an astrophysicist with a long-standing fascination with 3D-imagery who launched his own, wallet friendly Owl-viewer, a good alternative to Google’s Cardboard 3D-viewer, last year.

VRCardViewer

An amusing part of the production story was about the challenges of travelling with all this inventive equipment.

It seems the inventive Go Pro-construction and the slew of Samsung phones the production team travelled with could easily be confused for terrorist equipment as they had a hard time getting through the customs in Spain.

The Spanish custom officers were not big on English, so it was only the combination of the team wearing Queen-T-shirts and one of the custom officers following Brian May on Twitter that got them through customs in the end.

After plenty of initial confusion and communication problems, one custom official pointed at the team’s T-shirts and said something to the tune of “Queen 3D-360 tour Barcelona” and they were let go, as apparently the custom officer had seen Brian May tweet about this concert.

By the way, Mikkelsen is also a terrific speaker that I would highly recommend on the topic of VR-storytelling, her pervious work includes VR-productions for David Attenborough and various films, and I was so taken in by her talk that I almost forgot to take notes (which is unusual for me, who sometimes even catch myself taking notes in personal conversations with friends).

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