Monday, September 11, 2017

In 360 Degrees We All Play A Part

Croydon Music & Arts invited me to experiment with a 360 camera at their September young musicians social session & concert - this was super relevant as musical performance is a natural for 360 media. A musical performance is the interactive collective sum of individual musical performances at any one time and this is perfect and natural for 360 media where everything and everyone one is "in shot" at the same time. A 360 camera can be naturally surrounded by musicians - they are each making an individual contribution to a whole and on playback there is always something more to see - you can choose to focus on different performers or instruments and yet not lose sight (or I should say hearing) of the whole. In a sense a musical performance and a 360 camera together symbolise the wider dynamic of interactions of people and society .... in 360 degrees we all play a part, we all contribute and their are many different perspectives.

Croydon Music and Arts is a service that works to ensure children and young people in the borough have access to creative opportunities - here is Mike Brown talking about today's event and about how many different youth music groups from across Croydon have come together and with just a small rehearsal are able to play together and put on a concert.

I arrived as the orchestra were rehearsing Pharrell Williams' "Happy" - a relevant coincidence as inspireNshare are hoping to work on happiness projects using the 360 camera later in the year. Keen to record some of this performance but not wanting to interfere in any way I snuck the 360 camera at the edge of the orchestra beside the clarinets and cellos and recorded a couple of short sections.

Next up was a rehearsal for a Bossa Nova performance and while they were changing over I embedded the 360 camera further into the orchestra sitting it among the cellos and recorded some more.

The orchestra was rehearsing but I had been focused (if you can use such a term with 360 media) on recording the more cohesive performances - I had been missing the valuable little bits of development where the conductor guides the musicians - like the short clip below for example.

The remote controlled 360 camera "disappears" into a scene easier than a flat camera or a camera with a person "attached" to it. A spherical form isn't pointing at anyone, there isn't a photographer watching you you, the camera doesn't move and the camera I am using is quite small - people soon forget its there and we can "embed" the camera more naturally than might otherwise be possible. 

The Samsung VR ecosystem of smartphone, Gear 360 and Gear VR) is by definition highly mobile and very useful on location. People are used to smartphones and the Gear additions are small, non-intrusive and even familiar to many. Remote controlling a 360 camera is essential for natural non-non-intrusive, "embedded", "fly on the wall" style recording recording ...  or for 360 media more like "fly in the room" recording. I've found I can remotely control the Gear 360 from at least 15m so I am "non-invasive" and using a smartphone to remotely control the camera people probably think I'm just messing around with my phone like people do - its almost like a form of "spy tech". 

Samsung VR ecosystem is especially useful on location when you want to see and show people what you have recorded - you can remotely control the camera to transfer a recording to the phone and view it by putting the phone into the Gear VR headset. The phone and the camera use their own direct wifi and everything works off-line - especially useful when you have no WiFi access or where you need to show people what has been recorded before uploading to VR capable platforms like Youtube, Facebook and Flickr.

360\VR offers an immersive first person perspective - it gives an opportunity to "step into someone else's shoes" and see things from someone else's point of view. Some of the violinists arrived late and missed the rehearsal for real but "sat" among the cellists for the "Happy" and "Bosa Nova" rehearsals in virtual reality. 

Recording "embedded" 360 like this gives those who are thinking about taking up an activity an opportunity to see what it is like "as if they were there" and on this occasion it gives those who have never sat in an orchestra an opportunity to see what it is like.

Even more interesting is seeing yourself in virtual reality ... people have described this to me as being like an "out of body experience" - its really weird to see yourself from someone else's point of view. It can also be very useful an informative ... the conductors could for the first time see themselves from the point of view of the musicians - one of the conductors told me that he didn't realise how much they showed their armpits to the musicians!

Virtual reality adds a new dimension to video ... can it help add a new dimension to leadership and management?

In making these recordings I got the impression of how useful virtual reality might be in leadership and management development - could seeing yourself and your actions from other people's points of view help develop more empathic leaders? 

I also got the impression of how future entertainment might become something more about experience, something more empathic, embedded and immersed with the performers rather than just a "voyeur" in the audience. 

Society has many "stages" upon which we play our various roles. An orchestra is one type of "stage" - a large scale organisation with clearly defined roles and responsibilities and centrally lead to a defined purpose. However, the "stages" on which we play our personal lives are far less structured and clearly defined than the more formal "stages" of society - we are all lead actors in our own plays - we are all stars and we are creative in our own way. As an illustration of this some members of the orchestra during one of the breaks in rehearsal spontaneously expressed imagination and creativity on their own "stage" by re-arranging the decorations at the back of the hall :)

Croydon Youth Music & Arts

A playlist of video on Youtube can be found here 

A photo album can be found on Flickr here

To find out more about inspireNshare visit