ruminations on a series of unrelated events
As part of a new video course I am teaching called Breaking the Frame (See the Any Way Back post), I am working with various technologies for students to explore during the semester. One really cool one is a special 360˚ video player.
Indian University has something called the Advanced Visualization Lab, and at the IUPUI campus where I teach, the lab shares the same floor in my building. It is an amazing resource.
For this new course I have a stereo 360˚ camera called a Vuze. It is a single unit camera with 8 lenses. In the Video Editing Lab (VELa) where I teach my advanced courses, we have a stereographic LG TV. I was so underwhelmed with the quality of the 360˚ imagine in Google cardboard, but very impressed with the stereo quality on the TV when viewed with the Go Pro Kolor app. But I wanted to do more than just have students shoot and watch 360˚ videos, and that is where the AVL came in.
I wanted a player in which viewers could turn around in a 360˚ node until sprites on the screen indicated the presence of other nodes and then the viewer could jump to one of those. All in stereo and on a 3D TV. The problem is no such player exists that I could find.
Enter Chauncey Frend of the AVL. I approached Chauncey with the idea for the player, and he readily agreed to take it on. Over multiple occasions we met to work out the details of how we could use Unity to make a more interactive experience with these 360˚ videos. It turns out Unity released a video player last fall that enabled 4K video (which is what the Vuze produces) and the new player has stereo 360˚ capability, but just not for TV. Headsets rule the development world, while 3D TVs are basically being abandoned now by manufacturers. LG did not make a new one this year. I guess the demand for the feature just isn’t there. That’s too bad. The advent of 360˚ video in 3D is being met with 3D TVs ceasing to exist. Maybe they will come back into fashion some time in the future. Anyway, we own one, and not only does it look better on the screen, there a social component when multiple people are experiencing it together, rather than a bunch of students standing around watching someone wear goggles.
In the end, since Unity didn’t have a 360˚ player with native 3D TV capabilities, Chauncey just invented it. I can say with almost complete confidence that this player just doesn’t exist anywhere else. It wouldn’t have been even possible in 4K prior to last fall. So my hat is off to Chauncey for taking on the challenge and delivering. He put a lot more hours into it than the 16 or so we met, and I really appreciate his dedication to the project.
Tomorrow, Chauncey and I make a student tutorial for the player with some new footage I shot with the class last week. Once we have that working, I will post a link to it here and anyone can download and play it.