Economist Films: the making of VR travel experience Passport: Osaka

Visualise

Visualise worked with Economist Films, to explore Osaka on their hidden cities project, using 360 degree videos. Here, Visualise explains the challenge it was presented with, and how its solution drove results.

Challenge

Passport: Osaka is a VR extension of the Economist Films travel documentary series aimed at the intellectual, culturally curious and adventurous traveler. The series takes an intimate approach to exploring a city by using a real local personality as a tour guide, helping the viewer to understand the culture and destination even better.

This VR travel spin-off series mirrors a similar non-360° trip to Osaka by Economist Films but this time attempts to truly put the viewer in the eyes of long term resident Hori Benny - or alongside him as a travel companion - as he shares the sights of the city he calls his home.

The key challenge was to take the viewer to a combination of hidden cultural locations, not typically accessible to westerners. This included visiting Japan's traditional Sentō (communal baths), early morning bartering at a famous fish market, and exploring the eclectic nightlife and exceptionally busy streets that make Osaka such an exciting place to visit.

"As an experienced filmmaker, but a 'newbie' to VR, I was initially apprehensive about working with a team in an environment where I was out of my comfort zone," explains Hugo Ward, director, Economist Films. "However, the gang at Visualise were fantastic: they understood the importance of the 'the story' and we worked collaboratively to achieve an excellent character led VR experience."

Solution

As much of the film was centred around indoor environments or needed to be shot at night, a camera system that could capture scenes with the highest possible clarity and quality in the various challenging situations was required.

The best 360° rig to fit the requirements was the custom-built, next generation cinematic VR rig based on the Sony A7SII cameras and fondly known by the team as 'Stanley' (after Kubrick).

To ensure 3D audio was captured with the highest fidelity the VR ambisonic microphone from Sennheiser was used, which at the time of filming was still a working prototype.

Finally to pull the 360° scenes together with the audio, some carefully hidden lighting was deployed in certain scenes such as the themed bar in the Dōtonbori district.

One of the biggest challenges on this shoot was time constraints, with only a limited number of shoot days and a packed schedule, director Ward's highly-researched script brought to life his vision for the film optimising time efficiently.

In post, The Foundry’s new piece of software CARA VR was relied upon to speed up the post-production process, which included compositing over patches and adding track blurs over sensitive regions in the Sentō bath scene.

One of the key aspects of this film is the main protagonist, Hori Benny, as both narrator and person who takes the viewer from scene to scene.

Making of (images)

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Results

Passport: Osaka is one the first pieces of immersive content for The Economist's VR app that was deployed and built by Visualise.

The VR app is now available for Gear VR in the Oculus Store and both Apple iPhones and Android-based smartphones (Cardboard or similar adapter required).

This case study was originally uploaded by Visualise to the profile hub on 24/11/16.

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